ED files 1st charge sheet against 5 PFI, CFI members in money laundering probe

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has filed a charge sheet against five office bearers of the Popular Front of India and its student wing, Campus Front of India (CFI) including arrested National General Secretary of the CFI K. A. Rauf Sherif in connection with its money laundering probe.

This is the first charge sheet filed against the PFI by the ED, which is probing multiple cases against the organisation, in connection with money laundering and the use of such funds in various unlawful activities.

An ED official said that the financial probe agency filed a charge sheet in a Special PMLA court in Uttar Pradesh's Lucknow.

The official said that the court has taken cognizance under PMLA.

The official said that Atikur Rahman, National Treasurer of CFI, Masud Ahmed, Delhi General Secretary of CFI, Sidhique Kappan, a journalist associated with PFI and Mohammad Alam, a CFI/PFI member, were arrested by the UP Police at Mathura while they were on their way to Hathras to disturb communal harmony, incite violence and spread terror.

He said that as the agency was already probing several other cases against PFI, it once again registered a fresh case on the basis of the Uttar Pradesh Police FIR.

The official said that the money laundering probe revealed that the visit of these PFI/CFI members was on the instructions of Rauf Sherif and funds for the same were also provided by him.

Rauf Sharif was arrested by the ED on December 12 last year while he was trying to flee from the country.

The official said, "Probe established that Rauf Sherif entered into a criminal conspiracy with PFI members stationed in Gulf countries to fraudulently transfer money raised abroad by PFI in the guise of payments related to business transactions."

He said that the money was laundered through different layers and eventually reached Rauf Sherif and his associates belonging to PFI and CFI.

The official claimed that the 'proceeds of crime' amounting to around Rs 1.36 crore were obtained as a result of criminal activity relating to the offence of criminal conspiracy. Part of it was used by PFI/CFI office bearers or members or activists in India for their continuous unlawful activities which included, but were not limited to, funding of anti-CAA protests, inciting violence and fomenting trouble which led to the Delhi riots in February 2020.

The official added that in the charge sheet the purported visit of PFI/CFI members to Hathras with an intent to disturb communal harmony, incite communal riots and spread terror has been mentioned.

The official said, "Part of the proceeds of crime was projected as untainted money and was used for the purchase of land and was thus parked to enable its future use by PFI/CFI."

He claimed, "More than Rs 100 crore have been deposited in the accounts of PFI over the years, and a very large part of the same has been deposited in cash."

He said that the source and disbursal of these funds is under investigation.

"The PFI has been continuously indulging in various scheduled offences under PMLA ever since the Narath arms training case of 2013 investigated by the NIA in which members of PFI and SDPI were convicted of "organising a terrorist camp and entering into criminal conspiracy to impart training to the youth in use of explosives and weapons, with an intention to prepare them for terrorist activities," the official said.

He said that the involvement of PFI and its related organisations in the commission of such scheduled offences and the money transfers and cash deposits have significantly increased since the said incident in 2013.

"Further investigation has revealed that PFI has been involved in anti-CAA protests and several PFI members or activists were also arrested by the Delhi Police in connection with their investigation in the Delhi riots case," he said.

The official said that searches conducted at the offices of PFI led to the seizure of incriminating documentary evidence which revealed that PFI has been collecting huge amounts of funds abroad through PFI members or activists specifically appointed for this purpose. Targets for foreign collection of funds have also been fixed.

These funds have been remitted to India through hawala or underground channels and through remittances sent to the accounts of members or activists or office bearers of PFI and related organisations and also to their family members and associates, he added.

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