They said the agency has issued a provisional attachment order under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the attached properties are located in Jammu and Srinagar.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah. (Photo source: IE)
The ED on Saturday attached residential and commercial properties worth nearly Rs 12 crore of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah in an ongoing case of alleged money laundering, drawing strong reaction from his party National Conference (NC) which said these properties were “largely ancestral” and he would challenge the action in a court of law.
Among the properties attached is a house on Gupkar Road where the 84-year-old leader has been residing for several decades. The house is said to have been built in the 1970s by his father late Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the erstwhile state’s chief minister, and is said to have been inherited by Farooq Abdullah.
The action, which comes hours after the eight-phased District Development Council (DDC) election was over, has been taken by the Enforcement Directorate (ED in connection with its probe in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA).
The central probe agency issued a provisional order for attachment of the properties under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against which an appeal could be filed before the adjudicating authority of the PMLA within six month period.
The authority decides on the merit of the attachment and if it okays the ED action, the agency proceeds to confiscate the said asset.
The accused can further appeal against this order of the adjudicating authority before the appellate authority of the PMLA followed by the trial court, high court and the Supreme Court.
His son and former chief minister Omar Abdullah termed the provisional attachment order of properties belonging to his father by the ED as “baseless” and wondered how an ancestral property could be seen as proceeds of “crime”.
In a series of tweets, Omar Abdullah, who is the vice president of the NC, said his father “is in touch with his lawyers and will fight all these baseless charges in the one place that matters – a court of law”.
He said everyone is presumed to be innocent and is entitled to a fair trial “unlike in the court of the media or the court of BJP managed social media”.
He expressed wonder that the properties attached are largely ancestral dating from the 1970s with the most recent one built before 2003.
“There can be no justification for the seizures because they fail the very basic test of having been acquired as the proceeds of the ‘crime’ being investigated,” he said.
According to the ED statement, “the attached properties include three residential houses — one at Gupkar Road in Srinagar, another at KatiporaTehsil in Tanmarg and one at Bhatindi in Sunjwan village of Jammu.”
“A commercial building at posh Residency Road in Srinagar has also been attached besides lands at four different places in J&K,” the agency said in a statement.
While the book value of these attached properties is Rs 11.86 crore, their market value is estimated to be about Rs 60-70 crore, officials said.
The 84-year-old NC patron has been questioned by the ED in this case a number of times, the last being in October at Srinagar.
The attached properties of Abdullah at Gupkar Road and at Residency Road (prime upmarket locations) are on state land that has been obtained on lease, it said.
The house at Bhatindi (Jammu) has been constructed by Abdullah on a “grabbed” forest land of the government, the agency alleged.
The ED alleged Abdullah “misused” his position as the president of the JKCA in the past and made appointments in the sports body so that BCCI sponsored funds could be laundered.
The statement said ED probe has found that “JKCA funds to the tune of more than Rs 45 crore have been siphoned, which includes huge cash withdrawals to the tune of Rs 25 crore, with no corresponding justification”.
It said between 2005-2011, JKCA received a total Rs 109.78 crore funds from the BCCI for conducting various cricket activities in the erstwhile state.
“Between 2006-January 2012, when Dr Farooq Abdullah was the President of JKCA, he misused his position and clout by illegal appointments of office bearers at JKCA to whom he gave financial powers for the purpose of laundering of JKCA funds.”
“Abdullah was instrumental as well as beneficiary of the laundered funds of JKCA,” the agency alleged.
It said that “despite existing regular bank account of JKCA, six new bank accounts were opened for parking of JKCA funds and siphoning of the same.”
“One dormant bank account in the name of Kashmir wing of JKCA was also made operational for the same purpose,” the ED said, adding the JKCA funds were “layered” by way of complex inter-bank transfers in all the bank accounts and also by transfer to several personal bank accounts, followed by siphoning of the funds.
Reacting sharply to this, CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami the attachment order of the ED was nothing but a political vendetta as the BJP government has been unnerved by the support of people to Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Deceleration (PAGD) in the just concluded DDC polls.
“Attaching the property of Dr Abdullah is part of vindictive politics practised by the Central government to kill dissent and disagreement across the country and the present case has surfaced at a time when the DDC polls have just concluded,” he said.
He said the the BJP government “must realise the dangers of witch-hunting and intimidation and desist from vindictive designs. It is time for secular democratic forces across the country to raise their voice against such designs of the BJP government”.