ED summons to Farooq Abdullah part of carrot and stick policy, says Mufti aide | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

ED summons to Farooq Abdullah part of carrot and stick policy ahead of elections, says Mufti aide

ByMir Ehsan
Feb 17, 2024 11:11 PM IST

Farooq Abdullah, former J&K CM, skipped ED questioning for the second time in a money laundering probe. He cited health reasons and called it political vendetta

On Tuesday, February 13, senior Enforcement Directorate (ED) officers were waiting at the ED office in Rajbagh, Srinagar to question former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah. Abdullah, however, didn't turn up.

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah addressing a press conference in Srinagar. (PTI) PREMIUM
National Conference president Farooq Abdullah addressing a press conference in Srinagar. (PTI)

It was the second time in a month that Abdullah ignored the ED summons in connection with a money laundering probe related to Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) funds. Abdullah was one of the longest-serving presidents of the JKCA and was in a position from 2002 till 2015 when he was replaced during the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government.

Earlier this January, Abdullah, the sitting Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (NC) Lok Sabha member from Srinagar, was asked to appear before the ED for questioning, which he avoided, citing health reasons. On both occasions, NC leaders said that Abdullah had informed the ED officials about the reasons for avoiding the summons. “Once in Srinagar, I will appear before the ED,” Abdullah told a local news agency on Monday, February 12.

ED officials have alleged that during the tenure of Farooq Abdullah, he along with other office bearers siphoned off JKCA funds of over 113 crore by way of transfer to various personal bank accounts of unrelated parties, including those of JKCA office bearers, and by way of unexplained cash withdrawals from its bank accounts.

The ED had questioned the 86-year-old NC leader in 2019 and 2020 in connection with the case and on both occasions, the NC termed the agency action as a ‘political vendetta’ orchestrated by the central government. Abdullah and the NC, one of the biggest political parties in the union territory, have been vocal about their opposition to the central government’s abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, and on other issues related to J&K.

After attending the ED summons in 2020, Abdullah had also said that these kinds of agency actions would continue till elections were held in J&K.

Background of the JKCA allegations

The JKCA case has its genesis in a 2018 chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). In its first information report registered in 2015, the CBI accused Abdullah of a criminal conspiracy to connive with other accused to misappropriate funds.

The case was highlighted by some lower-ranking JKCA employees, who first flagged the issue in the media and also highlighted the bungling of funds worth crores in the sports body. However, after the NC lost power in the erstwhile state in 2014, and the PDP-BJP combine took over, the matter was pushed to the limelight and the state government handed over the investigation to the CBI.

The ED said that it initiated a money laundering investigation based on the chargesheet filed by CBI on July 11, 2018, against JKCA office bearers. It had arrested former JKCA treasurer Ahsan Ahmad Mirza in September 2019 and a Prosecution Complaint was filed on November 1 against him, in which the trial is in progress.

In 2021, ED filed its first charge sheet in the JKCA case against Mirza and other former office bearers. Abdullah was charged in June 2022 along with Mirza, Mir Manzoor Gazanffer and others, in the ED’s supplementary charge sheet filed before the Special PMLA Court in Srinagar. The ED said Abdullah, along with other officer bearers, indulged in misappropriation of funds from 2005 to 2012. The investigative agency averred that JKCA funds were transferred to and withdrawn from different bank accounts, and Abdullah did not raise the matter before a working committee despite being aware of it. It accused Abdullah of “misusing" his position as JKCA president to make appointments in the sports body to facilitate the laundering of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) funds.

ED actions termed a ploy to harass I.N.D.I.A. bloc parties

In December 2020, the ED attached residential and commercial properties worth nearly 12 crore belonging to Abdullah, prompting the NC leader to move the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. The former chief minister alleged that the properties attached were not related to the alleged crime and were either ancestral or acquired before the alleged offence. The ED in this case so far has attached assets worth 21.55 crore.

It’s not only the NC but other political parties, including People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration leaders (the PAGD was formed in 2019 to fight for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status), who think that the ED summons to Farooq Abdullah is only a ploy to scare him and other leaders from being vocal on issues related to J&K.

"Every I.N.D.I.A bloc partner is receiving either carrot in the form of potential ministerial berths or sticks in the form of ED summons, wrote Iltija Mufti, daughter of former PDP chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who also served as her media advisor, on X.

Abdullah had said during a press conference in Srinagar on Thursday, February, 17, that his party would contest elections on all five Lok Sabha seats in J&K independently. The NC, PDP and Congress are all part of the I.N.D.I.A bloc, which is trying to put up joint candidates against the BJP and its allies, across the country.

“Not surprised to see parties switching over or refusing to concede seats. Most are being forced to pick their poison to save their skin," Mufti added.

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