Amid the ongoing investigation against televangelist Zakir Naik and the lack of clarity on his current location, seen as a tactic to stay out of reach of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), it has now come to the fore that Naik has also bagged Malaysian citizenship.
While it is suspected that Naik is in Malaysia at present, instead of Africa or Thailand as is believed, the investigators said there have been no extraditions from Malaysia in the past, though a treaty was inked in 2010.
People representing Naik in his absence in Mumbai confirmed the development, adding that the citizenship came as a package deal for the preacher, along with the highest civilian award — Tokoh Ma’al Hijrah — conferred upon him in 2013.
“It is the state policy of Malaysia to offer citizenship to the awardees of the highest civilian honour of their land. Naik is now a Malaysian citizen too,” said a representative.
With the noose tightening around him, the dual citizenship is likely to benefit Naik.
Malaysia was also a favourite of now-arrested underworld gangster Chhota Rajan, who was alleged to be holed up there for years before being extradited from Indonesia.
Rajan, who also underwent medical treatment in Malaysia, feared being handed over to Indian authorities. His aide, Aftab Alam alias Haji, is still suspected to be holed up in Malaysia.
Sources also said investigators allegedly thwarted an attempt by Naik’s family members to leave India and they were under watch since.
Naik, meanwhile, issued another statement on Friday, criticising the Centre’s move of banning his Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and registering a case against him.