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ED carries out nationwide searches on Popular Front of India-linked locations

A twitter image of Enforcement Directorate.  

The Enforcement Directorate on Thursday carried out nationwide searches on the premises of the Popular Front of India (PFI) and that of its members in connection with money laundering allegations.

“The searches were conducted in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala,” said a senior agency official. The premises of PFI chairman O.M. Abdul Salam was also included. 

Multiple locations in Kerala’s Kochi, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram; Chennai, Madurai and Tenkasi in Tamil Nadu; Kolkata and Murshidabad in West Bengal; Bengaluru in Karnataka; Shaheen Bagh in Delhi; Lucknow and Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh; Purnia and Darbhanga in Bihar; Aurangabad in Maharashtra; and Jaipur in Rajasthan were covered.

The ED has been probing a money laundering angle based on various criminal charges faced by the alleged PFI activists, who have denied all allegations. The investigation by multiple agencies is said to be linked to the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests and the ensuing Delhi riots.

The organisation was also under the scanner in connection with the FIRs registered by the Uttar Pradesh Police alleging conspiracy to incite violence, following the gang rape and murder of a girl in Hathras earlier this year.

According to the ED, as many as 73 bank accounts maintained by the PFI, its related entity Rehab India Foundation (RIF) and certain individuals/entities with 17 different banks have been detected. A scrutiny of transactions revealed that ₹120.50 crore was credited in these accounts and most of it was withdrawn instantly, or within a couple of days.

About ₹50 lakh in foreign contributions was transferred to the RIF’s bank account from three foreign entities, even though it is not registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, the agency alleged.

Also read | ED inspects premises of Popular Front of India leaders in Kerala

“Statements of several persons belonging to PFI and RIF have been recorded till date. None of them has been able to explain the specific source of funds and specific disbursal areas,” said a senior ED official. Many of the accounts had shown a highly irregular pattern of transaction activity with long dormant periods, the official added.

PFI condemns searches 

The PFI condemned what it called “unjust ED searches”. A statement issued by Muhammed Shakif, the party’s national secretary, said: “The central government has come under immense pressure following the farmers’ protests blockading Delhi and the ED raids are nothing but a gimmick to divert the issue.”

The party also accused the Centre of indulging in a “witch-hunt” against activists and groups who are at the forefront of citizenship agitations. “ We have nothing to hide. The organisation will face it legally and democratically. These actions will not stop us from raising our voice seeking justice, nor will it weaken the ongoing democratic struggles.”

Earlier, the National Investigation Agency had registered two cases against alleged PFI activists. In one case, the agency alleged the role of 54 persons in chopping off the right palm of Professor T.J. Joseph in July 2010.

The second case alleged criminal conspiracy to train some young men in the handling of weapons and explosives in April 2013, with an intent to prepare them for terror activities and to “commit acts endangering the unity and integrity of the nation”.

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 2:49:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ed-carries-out-nationwide-searches-on-popular-front-of-india-linked-locations/article33238507.ece

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