A chargesheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate names journalist Rana Ayyub, a vocal critic of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led administration, in relation to alleged money laundering involving funds she allegedly raised from the general public for social welfare work, including COVID-19 relief.
A month after the first COVID-19 lockdown began, in April 2020, Ms. Ayyub allegedly created three campaigns on the crowdfunding platform Ketto and raised about 2.69 crore.
The investigation agency claimed that Ms. Ayyub got money from outside without declaring it to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, or FCRA, which serves as India’s watchdog and a set of guidelines to avoid misuse of donations coming from outside.
Donations, according to the Enforcement Directorate (ED), were moved from the bank accounts of Ms Ayyub’s father and sister to her personal accounts. The ED claimed that she created a fixed deposit of 50 lakh rupees and transferred 50 lakh rupees to a new account, adding that only 29 lakh rupees were utilised for social welfare activity.
According to the ED, Ms. Ayyub attempted to portray these assets as “untainted” because she claimed to have obtained them from the general population, but her true goal was to establish fixed deposits and boost her own bank account.
According to the ED, Ms. Ayyub raised the money to benefit slum residents, farmers, and others who had been adversely affected by COVID-19, as well as for relief efforts in Assam, Bihar, and Maharashtra.
The ED claimed to have discovered Ms. Ayyub had deposited a total of 74.50 lakh in the PM CARES Fund and the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund when her assets were frozen in February of this year.
The claims of money laundering have been denied by Ms. Ayyub, a vociferous opponent of the BJP, as a “smear campaign” against her.
“It is pertinent that no foreign donations were received by me or the 2 designated bank accounts, as all the donations were received first in Ketto’s bank account, who would send the amount for the relief campaign to the designated accounts in Indian currency. My instructions to Ketto were that any money received in foreign currency, should be returned to the donor, and the relief work was carried out with only domestic contributions,” Ms Ayyub had said.