Enforcement Directorate (ED) plans to seize as many as 14 properties in
Jammu and Kashmir belonging to Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, cofounder of the Pakistan-based
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group, as part of efforts to crack down on the funding of such organisations, said people with knowledge of the matter.
The agency, which has initiated proceedings to attach the properties, has identified the “proceeds of crime” invested by Srinagarbased businessman Zahoor Ahmed Shah Watali, 70, who is alleged to be Saeed’s financier, one of them said. Watali was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in August last year over terror funding.
“The 14 properties identified include bungalows, palatial houses. All these properties will be attached,” said a senior officer who didn’t want to be named.
The ED, which registered a fresh case against Saeed on January 19, was already pursuing one against him and others on the basis of a first information report (FIR) registered by the NIA in June 2017. The LeT has been accused of being responsible for the terror attacks on Parliament in 2001 and Mumbai in 2008.
In a related development, the agency has identified assets worth Rs 50.73 crore belonging to controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.
These assets, located in Mumbai and Pune, were allegedly acquired from the proceeds of crime, said agency sources.
The ED had attached Naik’s assets worth Rs 16.40 crore in connection with a money laundering case last month.
Naik has been under investigation since 2016 after the central government banned his Islamic Research Foundation for five years over speeches that allegedly promoted hate.
Further, the agency has identified 13 properties belonging to other terrorist groups. Attachments in six cases have already been executed by the ED.
“The endeavour is to close the tap of terror funding by attaching all the properties which have been acquired from the proceeds of crime,” said one of the persons cited above.
The ED set up a special task force (STF) last month to deal with the rising illegal drug trade through the country’s borders that’s a source of funding for terrorist groups. The STF will be headed by a special director or an officer of equivalent rank and will comprise a joint director, deputy director and other officers.
In an affidavit submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court earlier this month, the agency said a need was “felt to monitor and to undertake investigation of all such matters through a specially constituted STF.”
The affidavit added: “The exchange of information and inputs in these cases will definitely give more results and help in disclosure of the real source of funding as well as generation of proceeds of crime from the offence of money laundering arising out of illegal drug business.”
ET understands that the agency has asked its regional and zonal offices to share information on drug cases currently being investigated by them. ED attaches assets under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to deprive the accused from utilising their ill-gotten wealth.