Mumbai: Having attached properties worth Rs 20 crore of the controversial Islamic preacher and televangelist Zakir Naik in Mumbai, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has brought his overseas assets in three countries — United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and United Kingdom — in its money-laundering probe against him and his non-governmental organisation, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). The investigators suspect that Naik allegedly “invested heavily in real estate” in the three countries under the scanner out of the donations given to him by his followers after his sermons and fiery speeches.
Once the ED gathers conclusive evidence on Naik’s overseas assets being proceeds of donations received by him that are currently being investigated, the agency would approach foreign legal authorities for their attachment. Sources in the ED stated that Naik allegedly has more assets in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and England than the agency found in Mumbai. The officials suspect that among all the places, Naik bought most of the properties in Dubai, a business hub in the UAE.
Naik had been receiving large amount of donations from Saudi Arabia since long and the money was routed to Dubai for sending it to India. The UK is another country where Naik is suspected to have assets as two of the six shell companies that were floated by Naik, are based in England, with there being several individual donors who fund Naik from all these countries, officials said.
Among the donations that were sent to India via Dubai, include donations to the tune of Rs 60 crore, part of the total donations worth around Rs 200 crore, received in the bank accounts of Naik and his entities, between 2013 and 2016. “Based on the investigation it seems that large sum of these donations were utilised in foreign land, especially Dubai that seems to be more than his assets found here that amounted to Rs 20 crore. It is suspected that donation money was used there before sending the remaining to India. We are taking requisite steps to get the exact details,” said an ED officer, requesting anonymity.
The money was deposited in the bank accounts of Naik’s close confidant Amir Gazdar, sister Nailah Noorani and in the accounts of IRF and other entities.
The properties belong to Naik and his entities that were attached by the ED include his investment in Mutual Fund to the tune of Rs 9.41 crore of IRF, Islamic Education Trust’s school in Chennai worth Rs 7.05 crore, a godown of Naik’s media arm — M/s Harmony Media Pvt Ltd to the tune of Rs 68 lakh and bank accounts of IRF that had deposits worth Rs 1.23 crore.
Naik had floated six shell companies to launder the money received as donations from India and abroad. These companies are Universal Broadcasting Corporation Ltd and Lords Production Inc Ltd, (both based in England), Longlast Constructions Ptv Ltd, Majestic Perfumes Pvt Ltd, Alpha Lubricants Pvt Ltd and Harmony Media Pvt Ltd, which are all based in Mumbai. Naik’s sister Nailah Noorani holds around 90 percent shares in four of these companies. ED has questioned Ms Nailah twice in connection with the case.