The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is unlikely to yield to controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s request to depose before it via video link from abroad in connection with a money laundering probe case. ED officials have indicated inability to allow the proposal as such a remedy is not allowed under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Moreover, they said, the agency wants to question Naik “in person” given the serious charges of money laundering being investigated against him and others.
The agency has issued three summons to Naik and is now mulling to get a court-issued summon or Non Bailable Warrant (NBW) against him as options under the PMLA to summon him have almost run out, they added. Naik, through his lawyer, had made such a proposal yesterday. “My client is willing and ready to give any statement before you via Skype or any other mode of electronic media to assist you in your investigation,” a letter sent by Naik, also the founder of NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), through his lawyer Mahesh Mule said.
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Naik had said he is an NRI and has not received any summons. The letter, however, added that his brother was served the summons on February 2, asking Naik to appear before ED on February 9 and maintained it could not be construed as proper service (of summons). Naik has also requested the ED to wait for the order of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) tribunal before asking him any questions about his now-banned NGO IRF as the ban is being contested.
IRF was banned for five years by the government last year under the UAPA for its alleged terror activities. Naik had also claimed that he faces an extremely hostile atmosphere in India and under these circumstances, conducting a fair probe against him would be impossible. He sought a few months’ time to appear before the ED in person.
The ED had last week arrested Aamir Gazdar, a close aide of Naik, in connection with this money laundering case. The central probe agency had registered a criminal case against Naik and others in December last year after taking cognisance of an NIA complaint under the UAPA. The ED is looking into the charges of illegal funds laundered by the accused and the subsequent proceeds of crime thus generated.
Naik (51) is said to be staying in Saudi Arabia to evade arrest after some perpetrators of the Dhaka terror strike last year claimed that they were inspired by him. He, along with unnamed IRF officials, has been booked under section 153A, IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), besides various UAPA sections.
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