SC to hear plea of journalist Rana Ayyub against summons in money laundering case

According to the list of businesses uploaded on the apex court website, Ayyub's petition is listed before a bench of Justices V Ramasubramanian and JB Pardiwala

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The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday the petition of journalist Rana Ayyub challenging the summons issued to her by a special PMLA court in Ghaziabad in a money laundering case lodged against her by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

According to the list of businesses uploaded on the apex court website, Ayyub's petition is listed before a bench of Justices V Ramasubramanian and JB Pardiwala.

Earlier on January 17, a CJI DY Chandrachud-led bench had agreed to consider listing the plea of the journalist for urgent hearing after taking note of the submissions of advocate Vrinda Grover who appeared for Ayyub.

Grover had said a summons was issued by the special court in Ghaziabad against Ayyub for January 27 and therefore the matter be listed urgently.

In her writ petition, Ayyub has sought quashing of the proceedings initiated by the ED in Ghaziabad citing lack of jurisdiction as the alleged offence of money laundering occurred in Mumbai.

On November 29 last year, the special PMLA court in Ghaziabad had taken cognizance of the prosecution complaint filed by the Enforcement Directorate and summoned Ayyub.

It had noted that the prosecution complaint (ED version of charge sheet) under section 45 read with section 44 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 for the commission of offences of money laundering has been filed by Sanjeet Kumar Sahu, Assistant Director of Enforcement, Delhi.

"I have perused the above mentioned prosecution complaint and have also gone through the prosecution papers as well as documents including statements. From the perusal of the entire record there is sufficient evidence as to a prima facie case for taking cognizance against Ms. Rana Ayyub with regard to commission of offence ", the special court judge said.

The special court has noted the alleged offence pertains to obtaining illegally money from the general public in the name of charity via 'Ketto' platform (an online crowdfunding platform) in three campaigns without any kind of approval, raising huge amounts in the bank account of her sister and father and later transferring the same to her own bank account which was not used for the intended purpose.

She is accused of acquiring proceeds of crime and creating assets for herself.

On October 12 last year, the ED had filed a charge sheet against Ayyub, accusing her of cheating the public and utilising charity funds worth Rs 2.69 crore for creating her personal assets, and also violating the foreign contribution law.

"Rana Ayyub launched three fundraiser charity campaigns on the 'Ketto platform' starting from April 2020 and collected funds totalling Rs 2,69,44,680," the ED had said in a statement.

The campaigns, it had said, were meant to raise funds for slum dwellers and farmers, relief work for Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra, and help Ayyub and her team to help those impacted by COVID-19 in India.

The probe found that the funds raised on the online platforms were received in the accounts of Ayyub's father and sister and subsequently transferred to her personal accounts, the ED alleged.

"Ayyub utilised these funds to create a fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakh for herself and also transferred Rs 50 lakh to a new bank account. Investigations found that only about Rs 29 lakh was used for relief work," it had claimed.

"In order to claim more expenses towards relief work, fake bills were submitted by Ayyub and subsequently, bank balances in the accounts of Ayyub amounting to Rs 1,77,27,704 (including FD of Rs 50 Lakh) were attached under the PMLA vide a provisional attachment order dated February 4, 2022," it had said.

The ED had initiated money laundering investigation on the basis of an FIR registered on September 7, 2021 by the Indirapuram Police Station of Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh under various sections of the IPC, Information Technology Amendment Act 2008 and Black Money Act against Ayyub.

It was also alleged that Ayyub received foreign contributions without registration under FCRA.

On August 17 last year, the Delhi High Court had restrained the ED from proceeding further with the provisional attachment of funds in connection with the alleged money laundering probe against her.

On April 4 last year, the Delhi High Court had allowed Ayyub to travel abroad while questioning the ED over a Look Out Circular (LOC) issued against her barring her from travelling abroad.

Ayyub was stopped by the ED from taking a flight to London from the Mumbai airport in March as the agency had then opened a 'Look out Circular' against her.

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