ED Raids PFI Chairman’s Premises in Kerala as Part of Money Laundering Probe

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Defence News Bureau | The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday raided premises including that of Popular Front of India (PFI) chairman OM Abdul Salam in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi in connection with a money-laundering probe, officials familiar with the matter said.

Raids are being conducted at 26 locations in nine states: Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Delhi and Maharashtra.

The PFI is under investigation for alleged financial links with anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protesters earlier this year.

The ED in January this year submitted a note to the Union home ministry saying there “is a direct correlation between the dates of deposits/withdrawals of money from the bank accounts of PFI and those of demonstrations against the CAA”.

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“It has been noticed that Rs1.04 crore was deposited in 15 bank accounts of PFI (10) and Rehab India Foundation (5) during the period starting from 04.12.2019 till 06.01.2020. The deposits were in the form of cash and IMPS using mobile and deposit amounts vary from Rs5,000 to Rs49,000. The amounts have been kept below Rs50,000 in order to [not] disclose the identity of the depositor,” the note said.

“Rs1.34 crore was withdrawn from these 15 accounts from December 4, 2019, to January 6, 2020, by way of cash and NEFT/IMPS using mobile.” The withdrawals were made in small amounts of Rs2,000 to Rs5,000 on multiple occasions.

The note, a copy of which HT has seen, said 80 to 90 withdrawals were made from a single account on December 12 and December 21 when protests were held at several places in Uttar Pradesh.

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“The money trail has proved beyond doubt that PFI has mobilised the money to finance the cost of demonstration/gherao against CAA Bill till 06.01.2020. Further investigation to trace money trail from other bank accounts is continuing,” the note said.

PFI, which has denied all the allegations against it, did not immediately respond to ED raids.

The organization has been accused of forced conversions, the radicalization of Muslim youth, and linkages with banned outfits.

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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has called it a threat to national security and the then Union minister Kiren Rijiju in January 2018 said the government was considering banning the outfit. The government is yet to ban PFI.

Prior to ED’s probe, PFI has been named in at least four cases by the NIA. They include the one involving chopping of the palm of a professor in Kerala’s Idukki district in July 2010, the murder of a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader in Bengaluru in October 2016, the so-called Islamic State Omar Al-Hindi module in Kochi and a training camp in Kannur from where bombs, IEDs and swords were recovered in April 2013.

NIA in 2016 said PFI’s Sathya Sarini was involved in several conversions in Kerala. PFI was never charged by the agency.