Journalist Rana Ayyub says ED chargesheet just another desperate attempt to threaten her
The central agency’s case is based on a FIR alleging that the journalist acquired funds in the name of charity through fundraiser campaigns.
Hours after the Enforcement Directorate said that it has filed a prosecution complaint against Rana Ayyub in connection with a money laundering case, the journalist said that the move was another desperate attempt to threaten and intimidate her.
A prosecution complaint is equivalent to a chargesheet.
“...And yet another example of the abuse of PMLA law and misuse of law enforcement agencies to silence me, a voice that questions and critiques the ruling regime,” Ayyub said in a statement. “I am confident that this abuse of process by the ED will not withstand judicial scrutiny.”
In a statement on Thursday, the Enforcement Directorate said that the prosecution complaint is based on a first information report filed against the journalist in September last year, alleging that she illegally acquired funds from the public in the name of charity through fundraiser campaigns on an online crowdfunding platform Ketto.
The agency has also accused Ayyub of receiving funds from abroad without registering them under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.
It alleged that the journalist raised over Rs 2.69 crore in funds through three campaigns started in April 2020. These campaigns were for slum dwellers and farmers, relief work in Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra and to help those hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Investigation by ED revealed that the funds raised on the online platforms were received in the accounts of her father and sister and subsequently transferred to her personal accounts,” the agency alleged. “Rana Ayyub utilised these funds to create a fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakhs for herself and also transferred Rs 50 lakhs in a new bank account.”
The agency alleged Ayyub utilised only about Rs 29 lakhs for relief work and accused her of submitting fake bills to show as her charity work.
“ED investigation has established that Rana Ayyub had launched the aforesaid campaigns with the sole intention to cheat the general public and acquired proceeds of crime in form of FD [fixed deposit] and balances in bank accounts projecting them as untainted,” the agency alleged.
In February, Ayyub had described the allegations as “preposterous, wholly mala fide and belied by record”. They are based on “an intentional misreading of her bank statements”, the journalist had said.
She had said her personal bank account could not be used as Ketto required a physical copy of her permanent account number, or PAN card, to be furnished immediately. The document was unavailable at the time, Ayyub had said.
“The smear campaign against me will not deter me from my professional commitment to continue to do my work as a journalist, and especially to raise critical issues and ask inconvenient questions, as is my duty as a journalist in a constitutional democracy,” the journalist wrote.
On February 4, the Enforcement Directorate had attached money in Ayyub bank account’s worth Rs.1.77 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.