New Delhi: With the central government in a significant move banning the Popular Front of India (PFI) for five years, incriminating documents seized during search operations at the offices of the outfit and residences of its office bearers revealed that the outfit has “thousands of active members in Gulf countries”, said sources in agencies involved in the investigation.
As per inputs received by both the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as well as the Enforcement Directorate (ED), “the PFI has been raising and collecting substantial funds from abroad in a well organized and structured manner”. It also came to the knowledge of the Central agencies that the “PFI was raising funds abroad and their transfer to India through clandestine and illegal channels”.
As an organization, PFI has maintained that it is their “established policy not to accept foreign funds for its activities”. However, the fact of collection of funds by PFI abroad and their illegal remittance in India was also corroborated by one of the PFI accused K. A. Rauf Sherif in his statements recorded before the ED.
Funds not reflected in Bank Accounts
However, these foreign funds are not reflected in the bank accounts of PFI, it is “evident that funds collected by PFI abroad are remitted through members, activists, office bearers of PFI/CFI and other related organizations”, said the ED in a remand copy of one of the arrested PFI cadres.
“Funds received from overseas are concealed from the Government authorities and statutory compliance for collection of funds abroad and their remittance to India have not been done by PFI and its related organizations as they are not registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 1976,” the remand copy mentions.
As a part of “criminal conspiracy hatched by PFI office bearers over the past many years, suspicious funds from within the country and abroad have been raised by PFI and related entities and have been clandestinely remitted to India in a concealed manner and deposited in their bank accounts over the years”, reads the document shared with a special court.
Funds were collected for committing crime
“These funds have been raised as a part of the scheduled offence of criminal conspiracy. The funds so raised or collected by PFI are thus nothing but proceeds of crime which they have layered, placed and integrated through their numerous bank accounts as well as those of their members and sympathizers. Thus PFI and its related entities have been involved in the continuous offence of money laundering over the years.”
The investigators also received inputs that the PFI cadres and persons associated with the outfit used to go to mosques, in nearby areas to collect donations from the ‘namaazis’.
They used to collect donations during Ramzan or Ramadaan also whereas, sources in the agencies said, in the list containing details of cash donations submitted by PFI, most of the donations were for days which were not covered during the Ramzan period.
“The PFI members used to issue a receipt for the total amount collected to the concerned Imam of the mosque and deposited the collection with office bearers in the particular state.”
However, during the course of the investigation, at a later stage, the “bogus nature of cash donations was revealed,” reveals another remand copy of Abdul Muqeet, the Office Secretary of Delhi state unit of PFI, one of the accused in the case.
Funds collected through bogus cash donations and bank transfers
During the investigation of bogus cash donations and bank transfers, the agencies also found out that complete details were not mentioned in respect of various donations. “For instance, name of donor and address were blank or incomplete which made it difficult to locate the donors and verify their contributions.”
The ED, in its investigation against Abdul Muqeet, has mentioned categorically on such donations. “During the course of recording of his (Muqeet) statement under Section 50 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, he stated that they (persons associated with PFI) used to go to mosques, in nearby areas to collect donations from the namaazis,” mentions the ED remand copy against Muqeet.
The agencies also found complete details shared in respect of several residents of particular colonies. “Statements of several such individuals were recorded to verify the credit worthiness and identity of the donors and the genuineness of transactions.”
“The individuals categorically denied any association with PFI or SDPI and stated that they neither made any donation to PFI nor did they have the financial capacity to do so,” informed sources in agencies.
Similarly, investigation with respect to certain PFI bank accounts, revealed that immediately “prior to several bank transfers, equivalent amounts of cash were deposited in the bank accounts of the alleged sympathizers so as to project the funds received in PFI’s accounts as legitimate transfers”.
“Verification of these individuals revealed that their financial position did not justify such contributions. Many of them had no knowledge about the source of funds deposited in their accounts nor did they have any control over their disbursal,” mentions the remand copy of one other accused linked to the PFI.
Investigation revealed that such bank accounts were used by local PFI leaders and cash was deposited in those bank accounts immediately thereafter, equivalent amounts were transferred from their accounts to PFl’s bank account held in the same bank. “This raises serious doubts about the genuineness of bank deposits in PFI’s accounts.”
Hence, the investigation found that in “cash deposits and bank transfers are not genuine transactions” and have been affected by PFI in order to project the unaccounted cash raised through unknown and suspicious sources as untainted and legitimate.
Information revealed after seperate raids and arrest of PFI activists
The inputs came days after NIA, ED and state agencies in joint as well as separate raids arrested over hundred PFI members across India on two different occasions, and the Central government in fresh move declaring ban against the PFI, its associates, and affiliates as an unlawful association with immediate effect for a period of five years under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) made the announcement through a notification issued late on Tuesday night, declaring “the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts as an unlawful association with immediate effect”.
Alongwith PFI, the ban is also imposed on its fronts including Rehab India Foundation (RIF). Campus Front of India (CFI), All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organization (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala as an “unlawful association”.