THE ENFORCEMENT Directorate (ED) has arrested Aamir Abdul Mannan Gazdar, an alleged close aide of televangelist Dr Zakir Naik, in a money laundering case it is probing against Naik and his proscribed outfit Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). Gazdar is the director of at least six companies, including two real estate firms and a media company, floated by Naik. Touted as Naik’s ‘number 1’ confidant, Gazdar handled cash and real estate transactions worth Rs 200 crore on his behalf, the agency alleged.
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This is the first arrest in the IRF case. The ED is combing through 78 bank accounts held by Naik and the foreign donations received by the IRF. According to sources, Gazdar is director of six firms, five of which are suspected to be shell companies floated by Naik to launder money. The ED suspects the money received by these companies were actually donations received by IRF mostly from Middle East countries.
According to the Registrar of Companies (RoC), Gazdar is director of Longlast Constructions Private Limited, Harmony Media Private Limited, Alpha Lubricants Private Limited and Majestic Perfumes Private Limited.
Incorporated in 2008, Longlast Construction reported a steady increase in its long-term borrowings from related parties – Arshad Wahedna, Nailah Naushad Noorani (RoC documents show his father’s name as Abdulkarim Mohammed Naik, which is the name of Zakir Naik’s father) and Aamir Abdul Mannan Gazdar (director in the company).
According to the company’s balance sheet, while its total long-term borrowings stood at Rs 2.9 crore at the end of March 2010, it rose to Rs 14.8 crore at the end of March 2015. Of this, Rs 10.8 crore (72.9 per cent of the aggregate borrowing) was borrowed from Wahedna, and Rs 4 crore (27 per cent) from Noorani.
Gazdar is also the promoter of Harmony Media. Naik was its managing director from May 8, 2006 till he resigned on March 13, 2013. Unlike the two real estate companies, Harmony Media reported a steady growth in revenue – from Rs 4.7 crore in 2008-09 to Rs 10.16 crore in March 2015.
“Gazdar’s custodial interrogation is necessary to ascertain the exact source and the spending of the funds. While he was called for questioning on Thursday afternoon, he was placed under arrest after he refused to cooperate in the probe,” a senior official said. Gazdar will be produced in the Special PMLA court Friday.
The ED registered a money laundering case against Naik and the IRF in December last year under Sections 3 and 4 of the PMLA.