Zakir Naik’s close aide charged with money laundering in India

Aamir Gazdar was a director in six firms started by preacher Zakir Naik.

KUALA LUMPUR: India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) has charged Aamir Gazdar, a close aide of controversial preacher Zakir Naik, with money laundering.

The case against Gazdar is that he was a director in six firms started by Naik through which the funds were laundered.

It is believed that Naik, if he were to return to India, would likely face the same charge. Naik has emerged frequently in Malaysia, even giving public lectures.

A non-bailable arrest warrant was issued against Naik by the Prevention of Money Laundering Act Special Court on April 13 for not complying with the summons issued by the ED, India Today reported.

The ED had earlier registered a money laundering case against Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), which Naik heads. The IRF has also been declared unlawful.

The ED has frozen properties of the IRF and others in the form of mutual funds, real estate, and bank balances worth Rs 17.45 crores (RM12 million).

According to the India Today report, the ED has alleged that Naik and his associates had been indulging in unlawful activities through provocative utterances, and promoting enmity and hatred between different religious groups in India.

Naik’s inflammatory speeches and lectures had inspired and incited a number of Muslim youths in India to commit unlawful activities and terrorist acts, the report added.

Investigators allegedly found that Naik had established dummy companies for routing “illegal” money.

Gazdar is a director in at least six of these companies. Investigators allege that, as a close confidante of Naik, he had been managing and diverting funds for the latter and that he had collaborated in many of the alleged “nefarious and illegal” activities of the preacher.

The ED alleged that Gazdar had, for instance, handled unaccounted money of around Rs 5.15 crore (RM3.6 million) belonging to Naik without leaving any trail on its origin or utilisation within a span of eight months.

The ED said Gazdar had revealed that the cash amounts were handed over to him by Naik. However, he had refused to divulge the source of the money.

The Indian Express reported that Naik’s elder sister, Nailah Noorani, had admitted to investigators that she had ‘acted as a front’ for five companies set up by Naik.

The report said Noorani claimed that she had signed documents and cheques related to these companies ‘on the instructions’ of Naik without ever questioning him.

Noorani is not under arrest. The report went on to give some details of the monetary transactions that had taken place between 2013 and 2016.

Noorani holds 95% of the shares in the companies, with Gazdar holding 5%, according to The Indian Express.

The Hindustan Times revealed how Naik had allegedly promised Gazdar a flat in south Mumbai, and contracts for his construction firm, in luring him to lend his name to Naik’s companies.

According to the report, in a statement to the ED, Gazdar had said that Naik had “promised me a 1,000-sq ft flat in Mazgaon, where he planned to construct a building. He also promised to give marble contracts for his properties in India and Dubai to my firm.”