His five benami properties have been stuck for years.
Mumbai: Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who has been dodging a money laundering probe for dabbling with foreign donations worth billions, seems to have been cheated while on a spree to invest in properties. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials have found that construction on five of the recently identified benami properties of Naik has been stuck for years. Naik invested more than Rs 20 crore in these properties, which are located in Mumbai and Pune.
The ED was in the process of attaching these properties but was held up as the two-on paper-owners were not appearing before the agency despite being summoned on several occasions. The construction on these projects has stopped since years and officials said that they are unlikely to start again.
These properties are residential flats located in projects in Mumbai and Pune. Since it is multiple properties in same project, all of them are held up as the construction has stopped.
“We had summoned the two persons in whose names the properties were registered. The property documents in their possession revealed their incomplete status,” said an ED officer. While one building has no walls, the other only has a plinth which has been constructed, officials said. These properties hence cannot be attached by the agency. The sixth property is a land parcel in Mumbai that would not be attached alone at the moment.
According to officials, the money invested in these properties was allegedly sent by Naik. Several bank accounts belonging to Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), and its media arm Harmony Media Private Limited, allegedly received donations worth Rs 200 crore between 2013 and 2016. The transfer was supervised by Naik’s point man Amir Gazdar, who is currently out on bail. Out of the Rs 200 crore, around Rs 60 crore came from Saudi Arabia and was routed via Dubai, the ED probe stated.
Officials said that the two on paper owners are not related to Naik unlike the earlier instances when the ED had found benami properties registered in the name of Naik’s brother, sister Nailah and distant relatives.
They have already attached properties to the tune of Rs 18.3 crore owned by Naik and his non-profit IRF in March last year, in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case against him.