TRANSACTIONS AMOUNTING to approximately Rs 38 crore from 17 accounts in four banks of south Kashmir are under the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) scanner for suspected links with militants or separatist groups, The Indian Express has learnt.
According to sources, NIA investigators are tallying dates of withdrawal of money from these accounts with incidents of stone pelting or road blockades held in Kashmir Valley as part of the violent protests that began following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani.
“Some of these withdrawals appear suspicious, as they took place on the eve of such incidents… Their links to separatist or terror groups will be probed,” a source said. However, the source added, some of the cases “may just be concealment of income”.
The development comes at a time when the Central government has on multiple occasions blamed Pakistan for fuelling the ongoing unrest that has left 65 people dead since July 9. It also comes close on the heels of Pakistani LeT terrorist Bahadur Ali’s disclosure that he was sent to India to fuel protests in Kashmir.
According to the source, the majority of these accounts are held by small businessmen in areas such as Kupwara and Pulwama in south Kashmir. “In one case, however, the account is in the name of a plumber from Pulwama who lives a hand-to-mouth existence. This account received Rs 18 lakh over a period of three months, and was closed within four months after the entire amount was withdrawn in various instalments. This is clearly suspicious,” the source said.
Around Rs 38 crore was reportedly deposited in the accounts of small or mid-level businessmen whose income stated in annual tax returns is a few lakhs. “The money was taken out in installments of a few lakhs at a time,” the source said. “As things stands, more than 60 people could be questioned in the case, including relatives of the account-holders.”
An NIA team is learnt to be already in Kashmir to conduct inquiries with the account-holders, their relatives and bank officials to ascertain the source of funds, and why and by whom they were withdrawn.
A week ago, the agency had announced that it had registered a preliminary inquiry to investigate the flow of funds into some bank accounts in Jammu and Kashmir over the last few months. The agency has put the accounts under scanner after intelligence agencies found the transactions suspicious, officials said.
If the funds are found to be linked to terror groups or meant for anti-national activities, the NIA will register an FIR and launch a full-fledged probe, sources said.