Journalist Rana Ayyub was on Tuesday stopped by authorities at the Mumbai international airport from flying abroad in the wake of a 'look out circular' issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against her, officials said.
The federal probe agency wants to question and record Ayyub's statement in a money laundering case against her.
The 37-year-old scribe reached the Mumbai international airport to board a flight to London but was stopped by immigration authorities. Soon after, an ED team questioned her at the airport and asked her to join the investigation, they said.
She is understood to have been asked to depose before the agency at its office here on April 1.
Officials said the ED had first issued summons to her after the agency early this year provisionally attached over Rs 1.77 crore in bank deposits in connection with the case against her linked to alleged irregularities in charitable funds raised by her from public donors for COVID-19 relief work during 2020-2021.
However, they said, she skipped the notice and the agency did not want her to leave the country as it could lead to a delay in the probe and the subsequent filing of a charge sheet in court.
Ayyub posted about the incident on her Twitter handle.
"I was stopped today at the Indian immigration while I was about to board my flight to London to deliver my speech on the intimidation of journalists with @ICFJ. I was to travel to Italy right after to deliver the keynote address at the @journalismfest on the Indian democracy," she posted.
Posting a subsequent Tweet she said these events "have been planned and publicised all over my social media for weeks."
"Yet, curiously the Enforcement directorate summon arrived in my mail much after I was stopped at the immigration. What do you fear?" Ayyub said.
The money laundering case against her stems from a September 2021 FIR of Ghaziabad Police (Uttar Pradesh) related to alleged irregularities in donor funds of over Rs 2.69 crore raised by her through an online crowdfunding platform called 'Ketto'.
The police lodged the case on a complaint made by Vikas Sankrityayan, founder of an NGO called "Hindu IT Cell" and a resident of Indirapuram in Ghaziabad.
According to the police FIR, the funds were raised as part of three campaigns: funds for slum dwellers and farmers during April-May 2020; relief work for Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra during June-September 2020 and help for COVID-19 impacted people in India during May-June 2021.
Ayyub had rejected the allegations that she "misused" donor funds raised in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying money-laundering charges levelled against her were "preposterous and wholly mala fide".
She had said she has "demonstrably shown" to the Enforcement Directorate and Income-Tax department authorities that "no part of the relief campaign money has been used for any other purpose" or for her personal expenses.
She also said she has paid an income tax of Rs 1.05 crore on the public donation amount received by her.
The agency had said its probe "makes it abundantly clear that the funds were raised in the name of charity in a completely pre-planned and systematic manner, and the funds were not utilised completely for the purpose of which the funds were raised".
The ED had said, "Fake bills were found to have been prepared by Rana Ayyub in the name of some entities to claim expenses on relief work and expenses made for personal travel by air were claimed as expense for relief work".