MUMBAI: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is probing a layering of funds amounting to Rs 47.69 crore received by televangelist Zakir Naik through banking channels and Rs 64 crore received as donations by his trust, the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).
Sources said the money, received through banking channels, has travelled through a series of accounts maintained by Naik’s family members. Around Rs 23 crore remitted from Naik’s overseas account to his Indian bank account was transferred to his sister Nailah Noorani‘s account, sources in the security establishment said. In the case of donations received by IRF, the donors were mentioned just as “well-wishers”, raising doubts, said an official inthe security establishment.
ED is exploring the possibility of invoking the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against Naik. A financial probe has found that the Rs 47.69 crore, declared as proceeds of Gulf investments, were remitted from Naik’s Dubai bank account to his Union Bank of India account and relatives’ accounts. Later, the money was transferred to four separate firms which don’t have employees, showed the initial probe.
ED can register a case under PMLA if there is already a schedule offence like forgery or cheating registered against the suspect. ED mainly looks into the financial aspects of a crime. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on November 18 booked Naik for allegedly inciting violence and promoting enmity between groups on the basis of religion and race.
Last week, the central government banned IRF as an unlawful association under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Searches followed. Around 20 premises related to Naik or IRF across the country have been searched. From IRF’s HQ in Mumbai, police have seized Rs 12 lakh and gold. Security sleuths said the layering of funds raised doubts that it was being done to bypass procedures laid down for foreign direct investment.
IRF was registered as a public and charitable trust on December 21, 1990. Naik is one of the trustees of IRF. During 2003-2016, it received around Rs 64 crore as donations; 36% was from abroad. Officials said that though many transactions were done through banking channels, names of donors were mentioned as “well wishers”. “In case of donations, only names of donors are mentioned on receipts without their contact details. This might be a case of money laundering,” observed a senior official.
Details of Naik’s parents’ accounts show money from their account was transferred to Naik’s sister Nailah Noorani’s two accounts. Security agencies said these amounts do not reflect in income tax returns. Naik during 2012-2016 transferred Rs 47.67 crore from his Emirates Islamic Bank account to Union Bank of India. From there, Rs 27.41 crore was transferred to another of Naik’s UBI accounts; Rs 2.04 crore was transferred to the joint account of his wife and son, Rs 2.9 crore was transferred to Aafiya Realtors, Rs 4.5 crore was sent to Pacific Orient while Rs 29.76 lakh was sent to “Zakir Naik”. A probe is on to find out more about these firms. As much as Rs 10.57 crore was transferred to his father Abdul Karim’s account, Rs 9.48 crore to his mother Roshan’s account and Rs 43.5 lakh to another family member’s account.
“Money has further been transferred to various other accounts. The trail has created doubts and a probe is on,” an official said.
Naik’s parents collectively transferred Rs 25.8 crore to their daughter Nailah’s two accounts with the UBI and the Development Credit Bank. Later, the money was transferred from Nailah’s accounts to four firms, Majestic Perfumes Pvt Ltd (Rs 50,000), Longlast Constructions Pvt Ltd (Rs 15 crore), Harmony Pvt Media Ltd (Rs 9.3 crore) and Alpha Lubricants Pvt Ltd (Rs 50,000), where Nailah is one of the directors. An additional Rs 42.87 crore was sent to Harmoney Media from Global Broadcasting Corporation FZ located in Dubai. “We need to find out more about these companies,” an official said.
Several individuals also transferred funds to Nailah and Naik’s accounts. Nailah and the four firms have not shown these transactions in ITRs, found the probe. Officials also pointed out that the examination of Longlast constructions, Right Property Solutions, Majestic Perfumes and Alpha Lubricants has disclosed that no business activity was recorded against these firms. The said firms were also found to have not maintained books of record, minutes of meetings of their board of directors. Nor were there any employees. Mubin Solkar, advocate for Naik, said, “They wanted to start business but this controversy began. Business from these firms was to be commenced and hence there were no employees at that time.” On financial transactions from Naik’s accounts and them not reflecting in ITRs, Solkar said, “All the transactions were bank-to-bank. They were legal and disclosed at every point of time and to all parties concerned.”