NIA arrests Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Watali in connection with terror funding case

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Aug 18, 2017 03:17 AM IST

Watali was earlier arrested in 1990 for hosting ‘anti-national activists’ at his Srinagar residence. He has been under investigation several times in the interim years.

The National Investigation Agency on Thursday arrested Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali in connection to a terror funding case.

A team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) during an inspection in July 2017.(HT File Photo)
A team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) during an inspection in July 2017.(HT File Photo)

This is the second time Watali has been arrested on charges of aiding militant groups in Kashmir, the first being in 1990 when he was held by Jammu and Kashmir Police for hosting “anti-national activists” at his residence in Srinagar, NIA said in a statement. Watali was then arrested along with Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik, former separatist leader and current MLA from Handwara Sajad Lone and his brother Bilal Lone.

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NIA officials said that Watali’s arrest on Thursday comes after the probe agency unearthed “highly incriminating material pertaining to receipt of funds from foreign sources and its further distribution to the terrorists and separatists in Kashmir valley for anti-India activities”.

“The agency on June 3, 2017 NIA seached Zahoor Watali’s house in Srinagar and seized incriminating documents pertaining to several financial transactions and land deals. The property documents seized have shown huge amount of cash transactions in sale and purchase,” the agency said in a statement.

“Zahoor Watali, who is suspected of acting as a conduit for illegally remitting funds to the secessionists, terrorists and stone-pelters, was earlier arrested in the year 1990 by the Jammu and Kashmir Police, when some anti-national activists were found present in his house at Bagat Barzulla, Srinagar. He was taken into custody along with Yaseen Malik, Sajjad Gani Lone, Bilal Lone and others and was jailed for eight months at Jammu,” the statement added.

According to NIA, its investigators had conducted searches at Watali’s residence on Wednesday. Searches were conducted at multiple locations in Srinagar, Handwara, Kupwara and Baramulla belonging to the relatives and employees of Zahoor Watali, the NIA statement said.

The NIA also elaborated past cases in which Watali is under investigation which include that of illegal encroachment of land and assault which was registered in Srinagar under sections for Prevention of Corruption Act and other IPC sections.

“As per the orders of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir on June 22, 2016 the investigation of the case has been stayed. Watali was also accused of travelling on a cancelled/invalid passport despite having full knowledge of its being invalid/cancelled. Instead of surrendering the cancelled passport to the authorities, he travelled abroad on cancelled/invalid passport on March 21, 2016 in violation of the law and again when he tried to do so, his invalid passport was seized at Delhi by the authorities,” the NIA said.

On the basis of a written complaint given by the Assistant Passport Officer, a case was registered against him under section 420 of the Ranbir Penal Code and appropriate sections of the Passport Act in Srinagar, At present, the proceedings in the case are in abeyance as per the orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, the NIA said.

Watali be produced before the Special NIA Judge at Patiala House Courts on August 18.

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