India may use Fugitive Economic Offenders Act against Zakir Naik

Dr Zakir Naik.

PETALING JAYA: India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) is planning to invoke the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA) against preacher Dr Zakir Naik, Indian news portals reported.

A highly-placed ED source told news service IANS that it is “mulling the idea to invoke FEOA against Naik in the money laundering case being probed by us”.

The ED booked him in 2016 on a report filed by the National Investigation Agency under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

The 53-year-old preacher is wanted by the authorities for alleged money laundering but sought refuge in Malaysia in 2016, where he was given permanent resident status.

He has refused to return to India, claiming he won’t get a fair trial.

On Wednesday, it was reported that a Special Prevention of Money Laundering court in Mumbai had issued a non-bailable warrant against Naik.

The FEOA allows the authorities to take criminal action against any person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued but has left India to avoid criminal prosecution or is abroad and refuses to return to India.

If the person is declared a “fugitive economic offender”, the prosecuting agency will then have the power to confiscate all his assets to recover the dues.

India Today reported that if Naik is declared a fugitive, the ED will have the power to attach his overseas properties. The development will also help probe agencies in extradition of Naik from Malaysia, it added.

The FEOA was used against fugitive Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, the chairman of the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines. He was the first person to be declared a fugitive economic offender by the ED in January this year.

The ED had also moved the court to invoke the FEOA against fugitive diamond jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle, Mehul Choksi, of the Geetanjali group in a money laundering case, the news portal said.

The ED had filed the charge sheet against Naik in May this year claiming the proceeds of crime were worth Rs 193.06 crores (RM113.4 million).

Naik has drawn a lot of followers using his Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and his Peace TV.