A probe by Mumbai police has revealed that huge sums of money, to the tune of Rs 60 crore, have been transferred into the bank accounts of televangelist Zakir Naik and some of his relatives. The funds have come from different countries in the Middle East over the last three years, a report in The Times of India said.
"We still don't know what this money was meant for. We have done an inquiry and found the money trail. The money was transferred to family members' accounts," police sources told ToI.
According to The Indian Express, investigators are examining four shell companies, allegedly controlled by Naik and his family, to find out what these companies were used for. Each transaction and detailed bank statements would be scrutinised to figure out how the funds have been used.
The police probe has thrown up some intriguing facts. Apparently, Naik's family members, who are directors of the shell companies, are registered in addresses that exist only on paper. "The companies do not function from the addresses registered," an officer, speaking anonymously, explained.
He added that those shown as signatories of the company will be summoned for an inquiry and have their "statements on why the company was formed, what businesses were undertaken and what transactions were made" recorded.
A spokesperson for Naik's NGO, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), told The Indian Express they were willing to cooperate with the police probe and would make all relevant documents available.
"I am not aware of the companies held by Dr Naik's family members, but if there are [such companies], we will provide details about the same to the agency," the spokesperson said. Asked about the money allegedly received by Naik's relatives from abroad, the spokesperson added, "IRF has received money from offshore entities, but I am not aware of money being credited to an account operated by Dr Naik's relative."
As ToI pointed out, a decision on whether to initiate action against Naik's two NGOs under the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act 2010 is yet to be taken. However, a source close to Naik has said, "There is no illegal transaction. The money came into the bank account and all the records of IRF have been cleared till 2015 by the Income-Tax department. Whatever money came is in white and all the records are maintained. This also helps the country's foreign exchange to grow."
Naik and IRF came under the police's radar after one of the bombers of the July terror attack in Bangladesh confessed to have been inspired by him. Last month, Kerala police registered a case of forcible conversion against Arshi Qureshi, who was associated with IRF, and arrested him. ToI recently reported that the government of Maharashtra is set to book Naik on grounds of spreading religious enmity.
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