Federal anti-terrorism investigators searched a dozen offices and homes linked to televangelist Zakir Naik on Saturday, recovering cash and potentially incriminating documents, a day after police charged the controversial preacher with promoting terrorism.
Officers of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) swooped down early in the morning on the headquarters of Naik’s Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), which was banned this week for five years under a tough anti-terrorism law.
Investigators searched, among other places, Naik and his brother’s homes, the offices of the group’s women’s wing and a media company based out of a squalid south Mumbai neighbourhood that Naik used to beam his often-inflammatory speeches in western-style suits.
NIA chief Sharad Kumar told Hindustan Times that the raids were part of a legal process to restrict IRF and its members from using their funds and property till the courts rule.
“The raids are still going on. It may take another day or two to complete them and prepare an inventory of recoveries,” a senior NIA official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to journalists.
NIA and Mumbai police officers recovered cash worth Rs 12 lakh and gold ornaments from an IRF office. An NIA IT team from Delhi will inspect servers and communication devices found at Naik’s Peace TV office.
The federal agency is also set to ask Naik, who is believed to be now in Thailand, to join the investigation.
“If he doesn’t join the probe, we will approach the court to declare him a proclaimed offender and move for attaching all his properties,” said the NIA officer.
The IRF, formed in 1990, came under the security scanner after at least one suspect in a deadly café attack in Dhaka in July said he had been inspired by Naik’s speeches.
The government order banning IRF this week said Naik’s speeches extolled “known terrorists like Osama Bin Laden” and were subversive in nature because they inspired “Muslim youth and terrorists in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts”.
The group’s finances were already facing a separate investigation following alleged revelations that an IRF’s guest relationship manager had links to a group of 22 men who went missing from Kerala and were believed to have travelled to the Middle East.
The IRF also faces accusations of being part of a religious conversion racket in Mumbai.