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ED questions Dr. Farooq in JKCA case

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Our resolve for restoration of J&K’s special status won’t change even if I were to be hanged: Farooq

Coming out of ED headquarters, Dr Farooq speaks to media persons. Photo/Javed Khan

Srinagar: The Enforcement Directorate on Monday questioned former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah in connection with a money laundering probe related to a multi-crore scam in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association, officials said.

The 82-year-old National Conference (NC) president was questioned at the agency’s regional office at Raj Bagh in the case connected to the embezzlement of more than Rs 40 crore of JKCA funds. He received the summons a day after the formation of the People’s Alliance was announced in the Gupkar Declaration on October 15.

Officials said Abdullah’s statement will be recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The Lok Sabha MP and former JKCA president, who was also questioned in the case in Chandigarh in July last year, is being asked about his role and decisions taken when the alleged fraud took place in the association, they said.

The ED case is based on an FIR filed by the CBI, which booked former JKCA office-bearers, including general secretary Mohammed Saleem Khan and former treasurer Ahsan Ahmad Mirza.

The CBI later filed a chargesheet against Abdullah, Khan, Mirza as well as Mir Manzoor Gazanffer Ali (former JKCA treasurer) and former accountants Bashir Ahmad Misgar and Gulzar Ahmad Beigh for the “misappropriation of JKCA funds amounting to Rs 43.69 crore” from grants given by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to promote the sport in the state between 2002-11.

The ED said its probe found that JKCA received Rs 94.06 crore from BCCI in three different bank accounts during financial years 2005-2006 to 2011-2012 (up to December 2011).

The ED alleged that several other bank accounts were opened in the name of the JKCA into which the funds were transferred. The bank accounts along with the existing bank accounts were later used for laundering JKCA funds.

Pertinently, in February this year, the ED attached assets worth Rs 2.6 crore of Mirza and Gazanffer.

The agency had then said Mirza transferred huge amounts into his personal bank accounts, and the money was further transferred or withdrawn in cash. “Out of the laundered amounts, Rs 1.31 crore was received by Gazanffer who was a member of the finance committee of JKCA between 2006 to 2009.”

“This committee was arbitrarily constituted by Dr Farooq Abdullah, the then president of JKCA,” the ED claimed.

According to the agency, the then “duly elected treasurer Mukhtar Kanth resigned in 2004. Farooq Abdullah appointed Mirza as JKCA treasurer without holding elections as mandated under the JKCA Rules, 1957”.

“In the JKCA elections held in 2006, Gazanffer was elected as treasurer of JKCA and there was a brief court stay upon his acting as treasurer of JKCA when Farooq Abdullah continued Mirza as the treasurer of JKCA,” the ED said.

The court stay was vacated the same year and Gazanffer was not given charge of treasurer. Instead, Farooq Abdullah constituted a finance committee comprising Mirza and Gazanffer and both were empowered to jointly operate JKCA bank accounts, it said.

The two “opened a personal bank account” in their joint names with Jammu and Kashmir Bank and crores of funds belonging to JKCA were transferred into it, the agency alleged. These funds were either withdrawn in cash or transferred to other bank accounts including the bank account of Mirza’s firm, it added.

In 2011, Mirza was elected JKCA general secretary and Farooq Abdullah president.

During the period, JKCA funds were continuously laundered, the ED alleged.

“From 2004 till March 2012, Mirza continued as the authorised signatory in the bank accounts of JKCA,” it said.

Mirza was arrested by the ED in this case and a chargesheet under the PMLA has also been filed before a special court in Srinagar.

Meanwhile, after being questioned for several hours by the Enforcement Directorate on Monday in connection with a money laundering probe in JKCA, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah said the resolve for restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir will continue.

Talking to media persons after remaining inside the ED office for nearly seven hours, 82-year-old Abdullah said, “Remember one thing, we have a long way to go. This is a long fight”.

He further said, “Our struggle will go on whether Farooq Abdullah is alive or Farooq Abdullah is dead. Our resolve has not changed and our resolve will not change even if I were to be hanged”.

The former chief minister and ex-union minister said the struggle for restoration of the constitutional provision removed last year by the BJP-led government at the Centre was of all the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“It is not Farooq Abdullah or the National Conference’s struggle alone. It is the struggle of all the people,” he added.

Several constituents of the newly formed People’s Alliance, comprising mainstream political parties from Jammu and Kashmir, described Abdullah being summoned by the ED as a “witch hunt” and “political vendetta” by the Centre.

Asked about the nature of questioning, Abdullah said it’s an ongoing process and since the ED had to ask some more things after the previous round of questioning last year, he had made himself available.

“I am not worried, why are you worried? The only regret I have is that I could not have my lunch,” a visibly irritated Abdullah told reporters as soon as he came out of the ED office after his questioning.

Abdullah said the ED personnel had to do their job and he had to do his. “They were nice and very very good,” the NC president said.

Abdullah refused to comment on the proceedings, saying the matter will be decided in court.

“In the end, it has to be decided in the court when they put the papers in the court,” he said.

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