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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Foreign funds misuse case: Vadodara court extends Sheikh,Gautam’s remand by 4 days

The SIT sought a remand extension for seven more days after the six-day period, granted in a rare first-of-its-kind midnight hearing on October 17, ended Saturday.

By: Express News Service | Vadodara |
October 25, 2021 12:30:35 am
In its remand application, the SIT said an in-depth investigation was on into the alleged hawala funds amounting to Rs 60 crore and siphoning off foreign funds worth Rs 19 lakh received by AFMI trust since 2017.

A Vadodara court, late Saturday evening, granted four days extension of police remand of Salahuddin Sheikh and Mohammed Umar Gautam to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Vadodara city police that is probing the alleged misuse of foreign funds of the city-based American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI) charitable trust.

The SIT sought a remand extension for seven more days after the six-day period, granted in a rare first-of-its-kind midnight hearing on October 17, ended Saturday.

In its remand application, the SIT said an in-depth investigation was on into the alleged hawala funds amounting to Rs 60 crore and siphoning off foreign funds worth Rs 19 lakh received by AFMI trust since 2017. The SIT has said the accused have mentioned names of persons who were allegedly involved in using the money that was routed for ‘Islamic’ activities, including the construction of about 400 flats for displaced Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslims near Ghaziabad and funding local Maulavis on the Indo-Nepal border, sponsoring of the anti-CAA protests in Delhi as well as legal aid for accused in Delhi riots, providing aid to local maulavis and social workers in areas of the Indo-Nepal border and in Kashmir, as well as the construction of 100 mosques in seven different states.

The police also said the money trail suggested heavy illegal activity such as tax evasion amounting to crores of rupees as well as money laundering for which special agencies of the country are being asked to join the probe. The remand application also states that the accomplices of Sheikh — managing trustee of AFMI — and Umar Gautam who have been served a summons to join the investigation, are yet to respond to the police. The investigation into the alleged hawala transactions is a must and so the custody of the accused was necessary, it said.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Crime, DS Chauhan told The Indian Express that Sheikh and Gautam will be in police remand until Wednesday noon. The SIT has summoned Nabipur-native and UK-based Abdullah Fefdawala, who is emerging as the biggest benefactor of AFMI trust as well as a link to many of the contacts of the two accused.

Additionally, a summons has also been issued to Mustafa Thanawala, a Mumbai businessman based in Dubai accused of helping route the hawala funds to Sheikh, and a Dubai-based man named Kiden Johar Dhoklawala to probe into the hawala transactions.

The Vadodara SIT, which has also appointed a professional Chartered Accountant to help navigate through the money trail and accounts to probe the illegal funding, has also written to the Enforcement Directorate, the Income Tax department and the Ministry of External Affairs to launch a simultaneous probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and tax evasions by the trust.

To comply with a production warrant issued by the Vadodara court, Sheikh and Gautam were, on October 16, brought to Vadodara from Lucknow Central Jail, where they were in judicial custody following an arrest by the Uttar Pradesh ATS that was probing an alleged case of illegal religious conversion by Gautam.

The Vadodara police have booked Sheikh and Gautam for hurting religious sentiments, forgery, cheating and criminal conspiracy.

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