The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is going to invoke Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA) against Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who is currently residing in Malaysia, official sources said on Thursday.
A highly placed ED source told IANS, “We are mulling the idea to invoke FEOA against Naik in the money laundering case being probed by us.”
The ED booked him in 2016 on an FIR filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The controversial preacher is wanted by authorities for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches.
On Wednesday, a Special Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) court in Mumbai issued non-bailable warrant against Naik.
According to the ED officials, under the FEOA, any person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has left India to avoid criminal prosecution or is abroad or refuses to return to India will face criminal prosecution.
After the person is declared a ‘fugitive economic offender’, the prosecuting agency is vested with the power to confiscate all his assets and properties to recover the dues.
Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, the chairman of the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines was declared the first person to be declared fugitive economic offender by the ED in January this year.
The ED has 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 involving Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank fraud case.
Naik is a known hate preacher whose name prominently figured during the Dhaka bomb blasts in July 2016 that killed many. A bomber later confessed that he was influenced by Naik’s messages following which he fled India.
Naik, who used to preach on the now-banned ‘Peace TV’, has been living in Malaysia for around 3 years in a bid to escape the Indian law after cases were filed against him here in the wake of a terror attack in Bangladesh in 2016.
He was granted permanent residency in Malaysia following Britain and Canada’s refusal to grant him visa.
The ED had filed charge-sheet against Naik in May this year. It identified the proceeds of crime was worth Rs 193.06 crore and alleged that Naik’s speeches incited young Muslim men to commit terrorist acts.
Through his Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and later through Peace TV, Naik created a wide follower base. He often propagated Islam through his speeches.
Peace TV is banned in many countries because of the hate speeches he delivered, while IRF has already been declared an unlawful association by the Central government.
The ED has alleged that Naik’s IRF had organised peace conferences in Mumbai between 2007 and 2011 in which he attempted to convert people and incite terrorist acts.
Naik had denied the charges in a statement issued in June this year.
However, he was infamously quoted to have said: “If Bin Laden is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him. If he is terrorising America, the biggest terrorist, I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist.”
Naik has also defended the terrorist organisation ‘Islamic State’ and batted for men’s right’ to beat up their wives, the Indian agencies have alleged.
The Interpol has in the past rejected the NIA’s request on the ground that no charge-sheet was filed against Naik at the time of submission. The agency had termed it as a technical ground and that Interpol had not taken cognisance of it filing a charge-sheet against Naik and others before a Mumbai court in October 2017.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on September 5 raised the issue of extradition of Zakir Naik during his bilateral meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad in Vladivostok.
In July last year, India had made a formal request to Malaysia asking for his extradition.
(With inputs from IANS)