The ED on Thursday raided at least 26 premises in nine states linked to the Popular Front of India (PFI) including those of its chairman OM Abdul Salam and Kerala state president Nasarudheen Elamarom as part of a money laundering probe, official sources said.
The searches are being conducted in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Delhi and in Malappuram and Thiruvananthapuram districts of Kerala, they said.
The raids are being carried out in at least 26 locations of these states under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the sources said.
They added the action was aimed to collect evidence with regard to multiple money laundering cases, that have been clubbed into one, being probed against the PFI and those linked to it.
The premises of Salam and Elamarom, the PFI's Kerala unit head, are also being covered, they said.
The central probe agency is investigating PFI's "financial links" on alleged charges of fuelling the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests in the country, the Delhi riots that took place in February this year and few other instances.
It had earlier recorded the statement of Salam, a senior assistant in the Kerala State Electricity Board, and a number of other PFI office bearers in Delhi.
Reacting to the action, Salam charged that the raids were an attempt to divert attention from the farmers'' issue.
"ED conducts searches in PFI leaders'' houses. Heinous attempt to divert the farmers' issue and hide failure of the BJP government," the PFI said quoting Salam.
"Another example of using constitutional institutions as political tools. Such actions can't stop us from rising voice for justice or weaken democratic fights for rights," it said.
Salam has been posted at the regional audit office of the Kerala electricity board in Manjeri town of Malappuram.
The PFI was formed in 2006 in Kerala and is headquartered in the national capital.
The agency, last month, had said it was investigating "financial links" between the PFI and Bhim Army in its money laundering case registered to investigate allegations of illegal funds being used to "fuel" the anti-CAA protests.
"The ED is investigating financial links between PFI and Bhim Army on the basis of credible evidence recovered from senior PFI officials," the agency had said in a tweet.
The Bhim Army, led by its chief Chandrashekhar Azad, had told PTI that they were ready for all kinds of investigation.
The agency is investigating the PFI under the PMLA since 2018.
The ED had said that at least Rs 1.04 crore was deposited in several bank accounts linked to the organisation between December 4 last year and January 6 this year in various parts of the country.
The sources had said a total amount of Rs 120 crore, credited to bank accounts linked to the PFI, are under the ED's scanner.
The sources had claimed that these dubious deposits were either made in cash or through the immediate payment service (IMPS) and a number of such instances were seen in Uttar Pradesh, where the maximum number of violent anti-CAA protests were reported to have taken place.
Sources, quoting the ED findings, had said the withdrawal of money from the bank accounts linked to PFI and its related entities had a "direct correlation" with the violent demonstrations against the CAA.
It is alleged that these funds were used by PFI affiliates to fuel the anti-CAA protests in various parts of Uttar Pradesh and other locations, the sources had said.
The ED had also sent a report in this connection to the Union Home Ministry.
The agency had also arrested former Delhi Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor Tahir Hussain in August and alleged that cash received by him was used to "fuel" anti-CAA protests and the Delhi riots.
"The probe revealed that companies owned and controlled by Tahir Hussain and his relatives transferred huge amounts of money to dubious entities and entry operators which was returned by them in cash," it had said.
"The cash received by Tahir Hussain through entry operators was used to fuel the anti-CAA protests and Delhi riots," the agency had said in a statement.