ED charges Popular Front of India, its student wing with money laundering

The list includes journalist Sidhique Kappan arrested over Hathras incident.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has filed a charge sheet against five office bearers and members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its student wing, Campus Front of India (CFI), in connection with a money laundering case. The trial court has taken cognisance of the charge sheet.

“Atikur Rahman, national treasurer of the CFI; Masud Ahmed, Delhi general secretary of CFI; Sidhique Kappan, a journalist associated with the PFI; and Mohammed Alam, a CFI/PFI member, were arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police in Mathura while they were on their way to Hathras to disturb communal harmony, incite violence and spread terror,” said the agency in a statement.

Based on the same case, in which the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act provisions were also invoked by the U.P. Police, the ED initiated money laundering investigation.

According to the ED, its probe revealed that “the visit of these PFI/CFI members was under the instructions of K. A. Rauf Sherif, national general secretary of the CFI and a member of the PFI, and funds for the same were also provided” by him. Mr. Sherif was arrested by the ED on December 12, 2020 while allegedly attempting to flee abroad.

The ED alleged its investigation established that Mr. Sherif conspired with PFI members in the Gulf countries to transfer the money collected abroad “in the guise of payments related to business transactions”. It eventually reached Mr. Sherif and his associates, as alleged.

The alleged “proceeds of crime” amounting to about ₹1.36 crore was obtained as a result of criminal activity.

The agency alleged that a part of the funds was used for “their continuous unlawful activities over time which included, but were not limited to, funding of anti-CAA protests, inciting violence and fomenting trouble which led to Delhi riots in the month of February 2020; and in respect to the more specific incident investigated in this prosecution complaint (chargesheet)”, related to the purported Hathras visit.

The ED, in the statement, alleged that some portion was also used to buy land. “It is revealed that more than ₹100 crore have been deposited in the accounts of PFI over the years, and that a very large part of the same has been deposited in cash. The source and disbursal of these funds is under investigation,” it said, adding that the funds were received via “hawala” channel and through remittances to the accounts of members, family members and associates.

The agency alleged that the PFI had been indulging in various offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act ever since the Narath arms training case of 2013 probed by the National Investigation Agency, in which alleged PFI/SDPI members were convicted.

The ED is also conducting money laundering probe related to the Delhi riots in February last year, in which one alleged PFI member named Danish was arrested by the Delhi Police.

“Statutory compliance for collection of funds abroad and their remittance to India have not been done by the PFI and its related organisations like Rehab India Foundation (which received about ₹50 lakh as foreign contribution) as they are not registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act,” said the ED.

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