ED stopped from taking possession of assets of controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik
According to Naik’s lawyer Mubin Solkar, the order came after his client challenged the ED’s action in the tribunal headed by Justice Manmohan Singh.india Updated: Jan 09, 2018 23:42 IST
A tribunal restrained the enforcement directorate (ED) on Tuesday from taking possession of televangelist Zakir Naik’s immoveable assets that were attached last year, dealing a setback to agencies investigating allegations that the fugitive’s sermons influenced people to join terrorism.
The order from the appellate tribunal under the prevention of money laundering act (PMLA) stands till the next hearing slated for March.
“The tribunal has not quashed the attachment order. It has stopped the ED from taking possession of his immovable assets temporarily. As far as Naik’s movable assets are concerned, we have already taken possession,” an ED official said.
According to Naik’s lawyer Mubin Solkar, the order came after his client challenged the ED’s action in the tribunal headed by Justice Manmohan Singh.
A senior ED official, who did not want to named, said the agency has yet to get the certified copy of the order. “We will review it once we get it and file an appeal against it. Prima facie it looks liable to be set aside.”
This is the second setback for investigators after Interpol refused the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) request last October to place Naik under a red corner notice, which is equivalent of an international arrest warrant. The NIA has placed a fresh request.
Naik is facing a multi-agency probe in India after Bangladesh said the Islamic preacher’s sermons on his Peace TV incited the attack on a Dhaka café in which 22 people were gunned down in July 2016. The Mumbai-based man fled India and is said to have taken refuge in Malaysia.
His organisation, the Islamic Research Foundation, has been declared unlawful and his properties, to the tune of Rs 18.37 crore, were provisionally attached under the anti-money laundering law last March.
According to ED officials, the tribunal’s presiding officer in an oral observation equated the Naik case with that of another self-styled preacher, Asaram Bapu, who is accused of rape and currently in jail. The officer asked the agency why no such action was taken against Asaram.
“The observations were uncalled for as the subject under consideration pertained solely to Naik,” an official said.
Naik’s assets are in the form of mutual funds, real estate and bank balances. The ED registered a money-laundering case against his organisation and an FIR was filed by the NIA in November 2016.
The ED alleged that Naik and his associates are promoting enmity and hatred between religious groups in India through provocative speeches.