SC directs Ghaziabad Court to adjourn proceedings in financial fraud case against Rana Ayyub till Jan 31

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Ayyub is accused of financial fraud violating provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The Supreme Court today asked the Ghaziabad Special Court to adjourn the proceedings in the case against Rana Ayyub to a date after 31st January.

These directions were made in Ayyub's plea challenging the summons issued to her by Ghaziabad Court in a case registered against her by the Enforcement Directorate pertaining to her fundraiser campaigns on the ‘Ketto platform’.

When the matter was taken up by a bench of Justices Krishna Murari and V Ramasubramaniam, Court questioned Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Ayyub as to why she had not approached the Allahabad High Court.

To this, Grover submitted that since the alleged offence had taken place at Mumbai, the Ghaziabad Court should not have issued summons in the first place.  

"The jurisdiction of the Ghaziabad Court which is against Section 44 PMLA and Vijay Madanlal judgment...", she added.

After hearing the parties before it, Court decided to hear the case on the next date and passed the aforestated directions to the Ghaziabad Special Court.

In October last year, ED initiated a money laundering investigation on the basis of an FIR alleging that Ayyub illegally acquired funds totaling Rs. 2.69 Crores from the general public in the name of charity by launching fund-raiser campaigns on an online crowdfunding platform ‘Ketto’ starting in April 2020. It was also alleged that Ayyub who is a journalist by profession received foreign contributions without registration under FCRA.

Ayyub's case was mentioned before a CJI Chandrachud led bench by Advocate Vrinda Grover on Last Tuesday, who sought an urgent hearing. Court acceded to the request and agreed to hear the case on Monday, January 23, 2023.

ED's investigation revealed 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.

Additionally, Ayyub utilized these funds to create a fixed deposit of Rs. 50 lakhs for herself and also transferred Rs. 50 Lakhs in a new bank account, ED submitted. "Whereas, it was also revealed that only an amount of approximately Rs. 29 lakhs was used for relief work", ED's complaint stated. 

ED has alleged that Ayyub tried to project these funds as untainted and thus laundered the funds received from the general public.

It has also been alleged that Ayyub had launched the aforesaid campaigns with the sole intention to cheat the general public and acquired the proceeds of crime in form of FD and balances in bank accounts projecting them as untainted.

It may be noted, Ayyub has moved a plea before the Delhi High Court against the attachment of funds by the Enforcement Directorate in the same matter.

In February, the Enforcement Directorate attached Ayyub's assets worth Rs 1.77 crore in connection with alleged irregularities in the collection of charitable funds for COVID relief work.

ED stated that the FIR was filed in response to a complaint filed by Vikas Sankrityayan of Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, on August 28, 2021.

ED further stated that the aforementioned FIR revealed that Ayyub raised huge amounts in crores via the 'Ketto' platform (an online crowdfunding platform) in three campaigns, namely Funds for slum dwellers and farmers during April-May 2020, Relief work for Assam, Bihar, and Maharashtra during June-September 2020, and Help for Covid-19 impacted people in India during May-June 2021.

In April, a bench of Justice Chandra Dhari Singh of the Delhi High Court granted Ayyub permission to travel abroad stating that there is no compelling reason to believe that she will not appear before the Investigation Agency, and thus no case was made out for issuing the impugned Lookout Circular (LOC).

Case Title: Rana Ayyub vs. ED