ED unearths PFI funds were routed from Darbar Restaurant in Abu Dhabi to create communal tensions in Uttar Pradesh

Abdul Razaq BP and Ashraf MK are accused of collecting and laundering funds to the tune of Rs.22 crore for the PFI

Abdul Razaq BP and Ashraf MK are accused of collecting and laundering funds to the tune of Rs.22 crore for the PFI
Abdul Razaq BP and Ashraf MK are accused of collecting and laundering funds to the tune of Rs.22 crore for the PFI

How Abu Dhabi hotel served as money laundering front for PFI

India’s anti-money laundering agency Enforcement Directorate (ED) found controversial Jihadi organization Popular Front of India (PFI) routed money from an Abu Dhabi based hotel Darbar Restaurant to create communal tension in Uttar Pradesh. The hotel is owned by Asharaf MK alias Ashraf Khadir from Kerala, who is also an active PFI member engaged in covert operations through his UAE-based firms. ED on Friday charge-sheeted the hotel owner Ashraf MK along with Abdul Razaq Peediyakkal alias Abdul Razak BP in routing money to Uttar Pradesh for creating communal and Jehadi operations.

ED filed a charge sheet in Lucknow court and both accused Asharaf and Abdul Razak are currently in prison for the past few months, after agencies caught them while trying to leave India. It must be noted that Abu Dhabi’s Darbar Restaurant owner Ashraf was PFI’s Eranakulam District President and was accused (later acquitted) in the horrific case of mid-2010 in Kerala for chopping the hand of a College Professor Joseph. The Jehadi organization accused the professor of putting an ‘anti-Islamic” question for a college exam. ED has mentioned this in the latest charge sheet also.

The Lucknow court has taken cognizance of ED’s charge sheet in which the agency has identified “proceeds of crime” to the tune of Rs.22 crore, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said in a statement. On the role of Ashraf M K, a member of PFI Kerala state executive council, the ED said that he was involved in the funding of the organization and related entities.

“He (Ashraf) was the owner of Darbar restaurant in Abu Dhabi which served as a money-laundering front of PFI. However, to conceal the laundering of proceeds of crime through the restaurant, he did not disclose the fact of ownership of Darbar restaurant,” the agency said. ED said that Abdul Razak BP was “involved” with him in carrying out money laundering activities of PFI and linked entities through this restaurant.

“He (Ashraf) received proceeds of crime of around Rs.48 lakh from his brother who was managing Darbar restaurant. Another company owned by him, Tamar India Spices Pvt. Ltd. (TISPL), was also used to launder proceeds of crime,” the ED said. Asharaf actively participated in the activities of PFI’s related entities such as the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and its student wing CFI (Campus Front of India), the ED said.

The agency said its probe against Abdul Razak BP, a long-time member of PFI and its related entities, found that he was a “key figure” representing such organizations in the Gulf countries and was actively involved and instrumental in fundraising activities of PFI in India and abroad. It said Razak, a PFI divisional president of Perumpadappu and Malappuram in Kerala, transferred about Rs.34 lakh from the UAE to Rehab India Foundation (RIF) — a front organization of PFI.

“Similarly, he transferred Rs.2 lakh to M K Faizy, president of SDPI. The investigation found he was involved in raising/ collecting funds abroad and he transferred around Rs.19 crore to India through underground/ illegal channels,” the ED said.

A money-laundering probe against the two found that they, along with members associated with overseas entities, were developing a residential project called Munnar Villa Vista Project (MVVP) in Kerala with a “motive” to launder money collected from foreign countries as well as within the country and to generate funds for PFI to finance its “radical” activities. “Investigation established that proceeds of crime in the form of unaccounted and unexplained cash as well as foreign funds were parked in MVVP and were projected as untainted,” it said.

The ED alleged that Abdul Razak BP and Ashraf MK, with the active association and involvement of other PFI members, hatched a “criminal conspiracy” to raise funds in India and abroad and fraudulently transferred the funds through underground and illegal channels. “While part of the said funds was parked in the MVV project as well as in TISPL, a large part was used by PFI and its related entities to carry out their continuous radical and unlawful activities,” it said.

The proceeds of crime, in this case, were “routed” through various bank accounts and were transferred to the accounts of RIF, Ashraf MK, Abdul Razak BP and were invested in MVVPL, TISPL, withdrawn in cash, etc. With a clear intention to “mask” their origin, and to avoid direct linkages to PFI while putting them to use in its numerous unlawful activities carried out over the past many years, it said.

The alleged illegal activities included a recent case linked to the transfer of Rs.3.5 lakh (during August 2018-January 2021) to PFI member Anshad Badharudeen who was arrested by the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) of Uttar Pradesh Police along with PFI member Firoz Khan in 2021. Improvised explosive devices, one .32 bore pistol, and 7 live cartridges were also seized from them. The agency had filed its first charge sheet in this case on February 6 last year before the same Lucknow court.

More such charge sheets are expected to be filed by the agency in the coming days, it said. The ED has been probing the PFI, formed in 2006 in Kerala and headquartered in Delhi, since 2018 for its various activities, including its alleged role in “funding” the anti-CAA protests and the communal riots that took place in 2020 in Delhi. Uttar Pradesh Police and ED cracked the PFI’s dubious operations, after the arrest of Siddique Kappan in October 2020. Siddique Kappan was working as Journalist in Delhi for PFI’s newspaper Tejas, now shut down. PFI’s Delhi office and all its outfits in the garb of media, and human rights organizations are operating from Shaheen Bagh and it was a well-known fact the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh were engineered and mainly financed by PFI by routing money from Kerala via Gulf Countries.

[with PTI inputs]

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