Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah was summoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for questioning in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) case again on Wednesday (October 21) provoking angry reactions from the National Conference. Farooq was earlier questioned on Monday (October 19).
What is the JKCA case?
The case is related to alleged irregularities in grants given by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to JKCA. It has been alleged that between 2002 and 2011, funds to the tune of over Rs 43 crore were siphoned off from the JKCA coffers. These funds were part of the Rs 112 crore grant given by BCCI to JKCA.
A special team of the erstwhile state’s police started investigating the case in 2012. However, it failed to complete its probe in three years, and in 2015, two cricketers, Majid Yaqoob Dar and Nissar Ahmad Khan, approached the Jammu and Kashmir High Court with a PIL. On September 3, 2015, the court handed over the case to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Based on the CBI case, ED registered a case of money laundering in the matter.
What did CBI find?
In July 2018, CBI filed a chargesheet in the case. It charged Farooq Abdullah and three others — the then JKCA general secretary Md Saleem Khan and the then treasurer Ahsan Ahmad Mirza, as also J&K Bank executive Bashir Ahmad Misgar — under Ranbir Penal Code provisions related to criminal conspiracy and criminal breach of trust.
It alleged that “Abdullah had connived with the treasurer of JKCA and others for undue siphoning off and misappropriation of funds”. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram
What did ED find?
In February, ED attached assets to the tune of Rs 2.6 crore belonging to two accused in the case, identified as Ahsan Ahmad Mirza and Mir Manzoor Gazanffer.
In a statement issued then, ED had said that its probe had found that during the financial years 2005-06 to 2011-12 (upto December 2011) JKCA received Rs 94.06 crore from BCCI. These funds were received in three different bank accounts of JKCA, ED claimed. However, several other bank accounts were opened in the name of JKCA into which these funds were transferred, it said. Such other bank accounts along with the existing bank accounts were later used for laundering funds of JKCA, the ED alleged.
“Besides, the accused 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Mirza transferred huge amount into his personal bank accounts and then these amounts were further transferred / paid or withdrawn in cash.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 years 2006 to 2009, which was arbitrarily constituted by Dr. Farooq Abdullah, the then President of JKCA,” the ED said.
The agency further claimed that in the year 2004, the then duly elected Treasurer Mukhtar Kanth resigned, and immediately Abdullah appointed Ahsan Ahmad Mirza as Treasurer of JKCA without holding elections as mandated under the JKCA Rules, 1957.
In the JKCA elections held in 2006, Gazanffer was elected as Treasurer of JKCA, and there was a brief court stay upon his acting as Treasurer of JKCA when Abdullah continued with Ahsan Ahmad Mirza as the treasurer of JKCA, the agency claimed.
Upon vacation of the stay the same year, Mir Manzoor Gazanffer was not given charge of Treasurer, and instead a Finance Committee consisting of Ahsan Ahmad Mirza and Mir Manzoor Gazanffer was constituted by Abdullah. Both these persons were empowered to jointly operate JKCA bank accounts, the ED alleged.
“Both the above mentioned persons 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 the year 2009, Ahsan Ahmad 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,” ED said in its statement.
What is Farooq Abdullah’s defence?
Abdullah has steadfastly maintained that he is innocent. Even in his response to the High Court, he had refuted the allegations, claiming that his name was being dragged in to tarnish his political image. NC has often pointed out that it was Abdullah who had first ordered a probe into the matter by the state police.
The party also points to the circumstances under which Abdullah has been implicated in the case and questioned. The CBI filed a chargesheet against Abdullah weeks after BJP pulled out of the coalition government headed by the PDP.
Notably, when Abdullah had been called for questioning by ED initially in the case, agency sources had said he was being called as a witness. Sources said, however, during the course investigation, evidence was found against him.
The timing of his first questioning was also noteworthy.
Abdullah was first questioned by ED in Chandigarh in July 2019, days before the revocation of the erstwhile state’s special status and detention of Abdullah himself. His second questioning has come days after the Gupkar Declaration, and several Kashmir parties coming together to announce a resolve to struggle for restoration of Article 370.
The development evoked angry reactions from political parties in the Valley.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration on Monday condemned the ED move as “vindictive politics” and “witch hunt” and alleged that the Centre had got “unnerved” by the coming together of political parties in Kashmir over restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and statehood.
It suggested the step had been taken “to kill dissent” across the country, and to “silence the genuine demand for reversal of unilateral and unconstitutional decisions of 5th August, 2019”.
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