JAMMU AND KASHMIR, WNS: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday questioned National Conference president Farooq Abdullah in connection with a case of alleged money laundering. The case is related to alleged irregularities in grants given by BCCI to Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA).
The ED action, which came days after political parties of Jammu and Kashmir came together to announce a united struggle for the restoration of Article 370, evoked angry reactions in the Valley.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration condemned the Centre’s “vindictive politics” and “witch hunt”, and said that it had been “unnerved” by the coming together of Kashmir’s parties. It alleged the action was intended “to kill dissent” across the country and to “silence the genuine demand for reversal of unilateral and unconstitutional decisions of 5th August, 2019”.
This is the second time that Farooq Abdullah has been questioned in this case – the first time was in Chandigarh, before J&K was stripped of its special status and Farooq was himself put under detention.
Farooq had denied the allegations against him at the time. “I have done no wrong. I am open to investigation. I have recorded my statement today. The matter is sub judice and I have full faith in the judiciary of the country,” he had said.
The ED’s case is based on an FIR by the CBI, which has already chargesheeted Farooq for allegedly siphoning off Rs 43 crore from grants given by BCCI to JKCA. The funds were allegedly diverted between 2002 and 2011, when Farooq was JKCA president.
In February, ED had attached assets worth Rs 2.6 crore belonging to two accused in the case, Ahsan Ahmad Mirza and Mir Manzoor Gazanffer. In a statement then, the ED had said that its investigation had found that during 2005-06 to 2011-12 (up to December 2011) JKCA received Rs 94.06 crore from BCCI in its three bank accounts, but the funds were transferred into several other accounts that were opened in the name of JKCA. These accounts along with the existing bank accounts, were later used for laundering funds, the ED had alleged.
“…Ahsan Ahmad Mirza transferred huge amount into his personal bank accounts and then these amounts were further transferred / paid or withdrawn in cash. Out of the laundered amounts, Rs. 1.31 crore was received by Mir Manzoor Gazanffer, who was member of a Finance Committee of JKCA, between year 2006 to 2009, which was arbitrarily constituted by Dr Farooq Abdullah, the then President of JKCA,” the ED said.
The agency also claimed that in 2004, the JKCA’s elected treasurer Mukhtar Kanth had resigned, and Abdullah had immediately appointed Mirza treasurer without holding elections as mandated under the JKCA Rules, 1957.
According to the ED, Mirza and Gazanffer “opened a personal bank account in their joint names with Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd. and crores of rupees of funds belonging to JKCA were transferred into this joint bank account and these funds were either withdrawn in cash or transferred to other bank accounts… In… 2009, Mirza was elected as Treasurer of JKCA with Dr Farooq Abdullah and Saleem Khan, were elected as President and General Secretary of JKCA, respectively. In the JKCA elections held in year 2011, ‘Ahsan Ahmad Mirza’ was elected as the General Secretary of JKCA and Dr. Farooq Abdullah was elected as President of JKCA. Investigation under PMLA revealed that during this entire period, funds of JKCA were continuously laundered,” the ED said in its statement.
In a chargesheet filed in July 2018, the CBI had alleged that Farooq had connived with the treasurer of JKCA and others for misappropriation of funds. The CBI had charged Farooq and three others — Saleem Khan, Ahsan Ahmad Mirza, and J&K Bank executive Bashir Ahmad Misgar — under provisions of the Ranbir Penal Code related to criminal conspiracy and criminal breach of trust.
Notably, when Farooq was called for questioning initially in the case, agency sources had said he was being called as a witness. However, sources claimed, during the investigation, evidence was found against him.
The CBI chargesheet came weeks after the BJP pulled its support to the PDP-led coalition government in the state. The CBI had taken over the case from the state police in 2015 on orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
In a tweet on Monday, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said: “ED’s sudden summon to Farooq sahab displays the extent of GOI’s nervousness about mainstream parties in J&K fighting as one unit. Also reeks of political vendetta & won’t in the least blunt our collective resolve to fight for our rights.”
Former BJP ally and People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone tweeted: “What a sorry state of affairs. Dr Farooq sahib summoned by ED. Reeks of vendetta. Contrary to what they want to coercively achieve this will certainly have the opposite impact.”
Farooq’s son and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “…This is nothing less then political vendetta coming days after the formation of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration. To set the record straight no raids are being conducted at Dr Sahib’s residence.”