Court allows ED to quiz Kashmiri businessman

NEW DELHI, Mar 16: A Delhi court today allowed the Enforcement Directorate to interrogate a Kashmiri businessman in connection with a terror funding case involving LeT chief and 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed to unearth the money trail.
Additional Sessions Judge Tarun Sherawat allowed the application filed by ED’s counsel Nitesh Rana seeking permission to quiz Zahoor Watali, an influential businessman allegedly having friendship with Pakistani leaders and Kashmiri separatists, for two days – March 19 and 20.
Watali, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on charges of receiving funds from Pakistan to sponsor terror activities and stone-pelting in Kashmir, is at present lodged in Tihar jail.
He is said to be close to hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
In its application, the probe agency said it was conducting an investigation under the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) against Watali for allegedly receiving funds from abroad.
“In the course of the investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and the FEMA, the interrogation of accused Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali is required along with recording of separate statements under the PMLA and the FEMA,” it said.
A charge sheet was filed by the NIA in January this year against Hafiz Saeed, Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin and others for “conspiring to wage war against the government” and fomenting trouble in the Kashmir Valley.
The court had on February 2 taken cognisance of the charge sheet.
The 12,794-page charge sheet also alleged that officials of the Pakistan High Commission here were passing on money through Watali to the separatists.
The separatist leaders have been accused of taking a cut before handing over the money to foment trouble.
Saeed has also been accused of using the services of Watali for passing on the money to the separatists and some individuals who were actively indulging in stone-pelting in various areas of the Valley, the NIA said in the charge sheet.
The agency has charged Pakistan-based terrorists Saeed and Salahuddin, besides others, with criminal conspiracy, sedition, and under stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
It said 60 locations were raided and 950 documents seized. There are 300 witnesses in the case.
Besides Saeed, Salahuddin and Watali, the agency has also named hardline pro-Pakistan separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Shah alias Altaf Fantoosh, Bashir Ahmad Bhat and Javed Ahmad Bhat as accused.
Hurriyat Conference leaders Nayeem Ahmad Khan, Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate, Mohammad Akbar Khanday and Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal have also been charged by the agency in the terror funding case.
Saeed, Salahuddin and their Pakistani handlers informed people about the agenda of violence through “protest calendars”, the charge sheet said. These calendars were released through newspapers, social media and religious leaders, according to it.
These acts were aimed at creating an atmosphere of terror and fear in Jammu and Kashmir, the charge sheet alleged.
It claimed money was also routed through fake and bogus companies floated abroad and remitted to the Hurriyat leaders in J and K. (Agencies)