The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday arrested a prominent businessman from Kashmir, Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, in connection with the funding of terrorist and separatist organisations in Jammu and Kashmir. Watali was arrested in Delhi following several rounds of questioning.
Watali is suspected to be involved in hawala transactions using his vast network of contacts in India and Pakistan. He is also believed to be close to some high-ranking officials in Pakistan. Watali, according to NIA, acted as a conduit for illegally remitting funds to secessionists, terrorists and stone-pelters.
“His arrest follows the searches conducted by the NIA on August 16 at multiple locations in Srinagar, Handwara, Kupwara and Baramulla belonging to the relatives and employees of Watali,” said a statement from NIA. He will be produced before the Patiala House court on Friday.
According to the NIA, the searches have unearthed highly incriminating material pertaining to receipt of funds by Watali from foreign sources and its further distribution to the terrorists and separatists in Kashmir Valley for anti-India activities, said NIA.
The agency on June 3 had searched Watali’s house in Srinagar and seized 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.
Watali was earlier arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police in 1990, when some anti-national activists were found to be present in his house at Bagat Barzulla in Srinagar. He was taken into custody with Yasin Malik, Sajjad Gani Lone, Bilal Lone and others, and was jailed for eight months in Jammu.
In 2009, Watali was accused of illegal encroachment of land and assault and a case was registered against him at Parimpora in Srinagar. However, as per the orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, the investigation of the case has been stayed.
Watali is also accused of travelling on a cancelled invalid passport despite having full knowledge of its being invalid. Instead of surrendering the cancelled passport to the authorities, he travelled abroad on invalid passport on March 21, 2016 in violation of the law and when he tried to do so again, his invalid passport was seized in Delhi, NIA said.
At present, the proceedings, in this case, are in abeyance as per the orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.