Terror funding row : Businessman Zahoor Watali arrested

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Thursday arrested businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali in connection with a case pertaining to funding of terrorist and separatist activities in Jammu and Kashmir, sources said.

Watali was arrested from the National Capital New Delhi Thursday afternoon. His arrest follows the searches conducted by the NIA at multiple locations in Srinagar, Handwara, Kupwara and Baramulla belonging to the relatives and employees of Zahoor Watali. The raids were conducted on Wednesday.

“The searches have unearthed highly incriminating material pertaining to receipt of funds by Zahoor Watali from foreign sources and its further distribution to the terrorists and separatists in Kashmir valley for anti-India activities,” NIA sources said.

Earlier, on 3rd June, 2017, the NIA had searched Zahoor Watali’s house in Srinagar and seized incriminating documents pertaining to several financial transactions and land deals. The property documents seized have shown huge amount of cash transactions in sale and purchase, the sources added.

Zahoor Watali, who is suspected of acting as a conduit for illegally remitting funds to the separatist forces, was earlier arrested in the year 1990 by the Jammu and Kashmir Police, when some anti-national activists were found present in his house at Bagat Barzulla, Srinagar. He was taken into custody along with Yaseen Malik, Sajjad Gani Lone, Bilal Lone and others and was jailed for eight months at Jammu, sources added.

In 2009, Zahoor Watali was accused of illegal encroachment of land and assault, and a case was registered against him at P.S. Parimpora, Srinagar u/s 447, 147, 420, 468, 120-B RPC r/w section 5 (2) of Prevention of Corruption Act. However, as per the orders of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir on 22.06.2016, the investigation of the case has been stayed, the sources added.

Pertinently, Watali was also accused of travelling on a cancelled/invalid passport despite having full knowledge of its being invalid/cancelled. Instead of surrendering the cancelled passport to the authorities, he travelled abroad on cancelled/invalid passport in March 2016 in violation of the law and again when he tried to do so, his invalid passport was seized at Delhi by the authorities.

A case was registered against him u/s 420 RPC and sections 3, 12 (1) (a), (b), (c) of the Passport Act at P.S. Ram Munshi Bagh, Srinagar, on the basis of a written complaint given by the Assistant Passport Officer, Srinagar. At present, the proceedings in the case are in abeyance as per the orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

Watali is being questioned by the NIA officials regarding the incriminating financial transaction details and property-related records seized during the searches. He will be produced before the Special NIA Judge at Patiala House Courts today, the sources added.

Pertinently, seven Hurriyat leaders were earlier detained by the investigating agency, probing funds coming from Pakistan and other Gulf countries.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Ahmad Shah alias Fantoosh along with top leaders of the Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference Peer Saifullah, Meraj-ud-din Kalwal and Ayaz Akbar Banday were formally arrested by NIA on July 24.

The separatist leaders are currently in a jail in Delhi along with other leaders Aftab Hilal Shah alias Shahidul Islam, Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate and Geelani’s former confidante Nayeem Khan.

Meanwhile, another top separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah has been detained separately in connection with a money-laundering case previously registered by Enforcement Directorate and has been remanded to judicial custody in New Delhi. Shah’s one accompalice is also in the custody of the ED.

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