SRINAGAR: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) probing the militancy and separatist funding in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday arrested Kashmir’s leading businessman Zahoor Ahmad Watali from the national capital.
An NIA spokesman said Watali was arrested from New Delhi today.
He said Watali was being questioned by NIA officials regarding incriminating financial transaction details and property-related records seized during the searches on his residence and premises linked to his relatives and employees.
Watali will be produced before the Special NIA Judge at Patiala House courts tomorrow.
Watali’s arrest comes a day after NIA teams conducted raids and searches at 12 places in four districts of Valley yesterday.
Most of the raids took place on premises of relatives and employees of Watali.
The residence and offices of Watali and those linked to him were also raided in June this year.
The NIA teams had conducted raids on residences of separatist leaders and businessmen in May and June this year to probe militancy and separatist funding in the State.
The NIA spokesman said searches at Watali’s residence and offices and properties linked to him have unearthed highly incriminating material pertaining to receipt of funds by Watali from foreign sources and its further distribution to the militants and separatists in Kashmir for alleged anti-India activities.
He said during June 3 raid on Watali’s residence in Srinagar, the NIA had seized incriminating documents pertaining to several financial transactions and land deals.
The property documents seized have shown a huge amount of cash transactions in sale and purchase, he said.
Watali, who is suspected of acting as a conduit for illegally remitting funds to the secessionists, militants and stone-pelters, was earlier arrested in 1990 by the Jammu and Kashmir police when some anti-national activists were found present in his house at Bagat Barzulla, Srinagar, the spokesman said.
He was taken into custody along with Yaseen Malik, Sajjad Gani Lone, Bilal Lone and others and was jailed for eight months at Jammu.
In 2009, 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 High Court of J&K on 22-06-2016, the investigation of the case has stayed.
According to NIA spokesman, 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 on 21.03.2016 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,” he said.
The NIA has already arrested eight people including seven separatist leaders in connection with militancy and separatist funding in the Valley.
Those arrested include Altaf Ahmad Shah alias Altaf Fantoosh (Geelani’s son in law), Ayaz Akbar, Peer Safiullah, Mehraj-ud-Din Kalwal, Shahid-ul-Islam (Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s close aide and media advisor), Nayeem Khan and Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate, former JKLF commander and a Sikh lawyer from Jammu Devender Singh Behl, who was associated with Geelani’s Hurriyat.
The NIA is also questioning Naeem Geelani and Naseem Geelani, sons of Syed Ali Geelani in the militancy and separatist funding in the Valley.
The NIA had registered a case on May 30 against separatist leaders for acting in connivance with militants of Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba and other groups and woman separatist group Dukhtaran-e-Millat for raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means including hawala for funding separatist and militant activities in Jammu and Kashmir.
The NIA raids and arrests of separatist leaders took place after three separatists Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate, Nayeem Khan and Gazi Javed Baba had in an expose by India Today TV purportedly acknowledged of receiving money from Pakistan government, Hafiz Saeed and militant groups for fomenting unrest in Valley and creating chaos by burning schools, government institutions, panchayat ghars and police stations.