As the District Development Council (DDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir drew to a close on Saturday, the Enforcement Directorate issued orders for provisional attachment of properties worth close to Rs 12 crore belonging to former chief minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah. The properties include the house on Srinagar’s Gupkar Road where Farooq lives.
The orders were issued in connection with a money laundering probe into a case involving the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA), from the time the NC leader headed it.
The attached properties include Farooq’s residence on Gupkar Road, residential properties at Tehsil Katipora in Tangmarg and Bhatindi in Sunjwan, Jammu, commercial buildings in Srinagar’s posh Residency Road area, and land at four different places in J&K. The cumulative book value of the properties is Rs 11.86 crore, the agency said.
The Sunjwan property is also under the scanner in the investigation into to the alleged Roshni land scam in the Union territory. A list of “encroached properties” published by the administration as part of the probe mentioned the Sunjwan residence, jointly owned by Farooq and son Omar Abdullah, and the ED reiterated this.
Refuting the allegations, Omar Abdullah said the properties were ancestral. “The properties attached are largely ancestral dating from the 1970s with the most recent one built before 2003. There can be no justification for the seizures because they fail the very basic test of having been acquired as the proceeds of the ‘crime’ being investigated,” Omar said in a tweet.
The properties attached are largely ancestral dating from the 1970s with the most recent one built before 2003. There can be no justification for the seizures because they fail the very basic test of having been acquired as the proceeds of the “crime” being investigated.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) December 19, 2020
He added that the family was exploring legal options and “will fight all these baseless charges in the one place that matters — a court of law”. NC sources said Farooq has 140 days to challenge the attachment.
The party described the action as political vendetta, meant to settle political scores. “It reveals the desperation of the BJP which is using its agencies to settle political scores,” the NC said.
In a statement, the ED said, “Among these attached properties, the residence and land of Dr Farooq Abdullah at Gupkar Road and commercial buildings at Residency Road, at prime upmarket locations, are State lands obtained on lease. The other attached house at Bhatindi, Village Sunjwan, (Jammu), had been constructed by Farooq Abdullah on State land and forest land, where he has also grabbed State land and forest land.”
The case is related to alleged siphoning off of grants given by the BCCI to the JKCA between 2002 and 2011, to the tune of over Rs 43 crore. Farooq has been questioned multiple times in the case, including just ahead of the DDC polls.
The ED claims that its probe has found that from 2005-06 to December 2011, the JKCA received Rs 109.78 crore from the BCCI. “Between 2006 and January 2012, when Dr Farooq Abdullah was the President of JKCA, he misused his position and clout by illegal appointments of office bearers at JKCA to whom he gave financial powers for the purpose of laundering of JKCA funds. Investigation also reveals that Dr Farooq Abdullah was instrumental as well as beneficiary of the laundered funds of JKCA,” the ED statement said.
The agency claims that despite the JKCA already having a bank account, six new accounts were opened allegedly to park siphoned off funds. One dormant bank account in the name of Kashmir Wing of the JKCA was also made operational for this purpose, the agency says.
“JKCA funds to the tune of more than Rs 45 crore have been siphoned, which includes huge cash withdrawals to the tune of Rs 25 crore, with no corresponding justification. Investigations disclose that for the purpose of generation of proceeds of crime, JKCA funds were layered by way of complex interbank transfers in all the bank accounts of JKCA and also by transfer to several personal bank accounts, followed by siphoning of the funds,” the ED statement said.
While an FIR was filed in the case in 2015, the CBI had filed a chargesheet in July 2018, charging Farooq, then JKCA general secretary Md Saleem Khan, then treasurer Ahsan Ahmad Mirza and 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”.
In February, the ED had attached assets to the tune of Rs 2.6 crore belonging to two accused in the case, including Mirza and Mir Manzoor Gazanffer. The two had been appointed to the JKCA finance committee by Farooq.
The CPM said the ED action showed the BJP government was “unnerved” by the support the Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration candidates had got in the DDC polls, the first electoral exercise in J&K after the scrapping of its special status.