In the first major crackdown against controversial televangelist Zakir Naik, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached assets of his Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) worth Rs18.37 crore.
This comes after Naik failed to appear in person before the agency despite four summons issued to him. The assets attached include a mutual fund worth Rs 9.41 crore, a godown valued at Rs 68 lakh belonging to M/s Harmony media private limited and a school building worth Rs 7.05 crore owned by the Islamic Education Trust in Chennai. Apart from these, five of the foundation’s bank accounts with a total balance Rs1.23 crore have been attached provisionally.
“The investigations revealed that the proceeds of crime generated through Naik’s provocative speeches have been either routed, transferred or utilised for the purpose of creating communal disharmony and for inciting Muslim youths and terrorists,” said an ED officer on condition of anonymity.
Naik’s close confidante Aamir Gazdar, a south -Mumbai based marble trader, has been the only one arrested in the case. Gazdar is currently in judicial custody and the central agency has accused him of acquiring and disposing of cash.
ED alleged Naik and his associates are indulging in unlawful activities and through his provocative utterances, promoting enmity and hatred between different religious groups in India. His inflammatory speeches and lectures have inspired and incited a number of Muslim youths in India to commit unlawful activities and terrorist acts, ED claimed.
ED sources said in view of the involvement of Naik, Gazdar and IRF in the case and laundering assets, properties controlled by them directly or indirectly become liable for attachment under the section 2 (1) (u) of PMLA Act. The agency had registered a case under the provisions of PMLA, 2002 on the basis of FIR registered by NIA in November, 2016.
Since the IRF has been declared an unlawful association, no person can become member or office bearer of the IRF — whose website says it is a registered non-profit public charitable trust — or hold meetings or collect funds. A ban under UAPA is valid for five years.
The decision to declare the IRF unlawful was approved in a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
Naik is believed to be in Thailand at the moment.
He left the country after it was alleged that his sermons influenced few of the Bangladeshi youth who targeted an eatery in Dhaka on July 1, 2016. Bangladesh has banned Naik’s Peace TV, saying it incited the attack on the Dhaka café in which 22 people were gunned down.