A group named Hindu IT Cell filed a first information report (FIR) against journalist Rana Ayyub on 7 September in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad for her fundraising campaigns for Covid-19 and flood relief work in Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra.
The group alleged that Ayyub had illegally collected money through an online platform “in the name of charity”. The complainant alleged that the journalist had received foreign funds without the government’s approval.
Ayyub is known for sustained propaganda against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led union government.
The charges against Ayyub were filed under Section 4 (punishment for money laundering) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Section 66D of the Information Technology Act (punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resources).
The FIR invokes Sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 418 (cheating), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The case relates to three fundraising campaigns Rana Ayyub had conducted on Ketto, Funds for slum dwellers and farmers, Relief work for Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra, and Help for Covid-19 impacted people in India. However, doubts were raised on the campaigns since the beginning, as the journalist was accepting foreign donations without the mandatory FCRA approval.
Last month, Ketto had informed the donors of the campaigns that the fundraisings by Rana Ayyub were under the scanner of probe agencies, and a large amount of money still remained unspent, which meant it didn’t reach the intended beneficiaries.
According to the platform, Rana Ayyub had informed them that she had received around Rs 2.69 crore in the campaigns, which included Rs 1.90 crore from Indian donors and $ 1.09 lakh in foreign donations. Out of the total Rs 2.69 crore collected, she has spent on around Rs 1.25 crore, and she is yet to pay Rs 90 lakh from the fund as taxes. This means, around Rs 1.44 crore is still lying in the accounts. Out of this, Rs 90 lakh is tax liability, while the rest Rs 54 lakh never reached the intended beneficiaries.
Rana Ayyub had ended her Covid-19 fundraiser for relief work after potential illegality of it was exposed. She had claimed that she is returning the foreign donations. But the Ketto’s statement last month showed that she had not refunded any such donations from foreign countries.
In June, another FIR was registered against the journalist for sharing a video on social media of an attack on an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad. On 21 June, the Bombay High Court had granted her interim protection from arrest for four weeks.