ED seeks to link Muslim outfit with anti-CAA stir

ED seeks 'financial links' between Muslim outfit PFI and anti-CAA protests in UP

The Enforcement Directorate has claimed that bank transactions running into Rs 120.5 crore by Popular Front of India (PFI) is linked to the violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) even as the outfit described the allegations as "baseless".

The agency officials said their investigation has found out that 73 accounts maintained by PFI, its related entity Rehab India Foundation and some other individuals and entities had shown crediting of Rs 120.5 crore, which was withdrawn on the same day of its depositing.

They claimed the deposits were mainly cash deposits or through RTGS/NEFT and these accounts rarely saw transactions through cheque. An analysis of the deposits in the accounts of PFI maintained in Syndicate Bank's Nehru Place Branch showed a "new trend of huge and multiple cash deposits" in UP's Bahraich, Bijnor, Hapur, Shamli and Dasna among others.

Scrutiny of transactions in PFI's account in Kozhikode branch of Syndicate Bank, the officials claimed, showed money being paid to Congress leader and senior lawyer Kapil Sibal as well as lawyers Indira Jaising and Dushyant A Dave.

Sibal, whom a note circulating on social media claimed had been given Rs 77 lakh, said he had fought the Hadiya case and the PFI itself had made it clear earlier that it had paid lawyers. "The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) wants to divert attention (from anti-CAA protests)," he said adding that he will file defamation cases against new channels and journalists who tweeted about "fake news" without taking his version.

Jaising, who is claimed to have taken Rs four lakh, "completely and vehemently" denied having received any money from PFI at any point of time, or receiving any money from any person in relation to anti-CAA protests. She also said she will take legal action against those who ran the story without verification of its authenticity.

Dave said it was "not a banned organisation when I was paid fees, if they paid" for the Hadiya case.

Describing the allegations as "totally baseless" and asking those levelling allegations to prove the claims, the PFI said transfers were made in 2017 as a lawyer fees for the Hadiya case. "This transfer was openly declared by Popular Front in various public meetings. Attributing a fees transfer that happened in 2017 as funding for 2019 CAA protest is totally absurd and exposes the intention to defame Popular Front," it said.

The PFI also challenged the claims that Rs 1.65 crore has been transferred to its Kashmir unit, saying that it does not have an outfit in that region.

"We challenge the so-called 'unnamed sources' to prove that there is any wing of Popular Front working in Kashmir. Popular Front carried out extensive flood relief work in Kashmir in 2014 and built more than 100 houses for the flood victims which was also openly declared by the organization in 2014 itself through official publications. Assigning the 2014 flood relief as 2019 anti-CAA protest funding makes it clear that there is a planned vilification campaign going on against Popular Front to stop our growth," it added.

The National Investigation Agency's FIR and chargesheet against the PFI had formed the basis for the ED to file a PMLA case against the outfit, which was formed in 2006 in Kerala as a successor to the National Democratic Front (NDF).