Dubai firm linked to Zakir Naik sold in 2017 over ‘negative publicity’ in media

Sadaf Modak
A case was registered against Naik by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2016 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), following allegations that his speeches were being used to incite "terror activities". (File photo)

IN ITS chargesheet filed last week against Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), the Enforcement Directorate has relied on a statement of a close aide of the controversial preacher, claiming that one of his media companies was sold in 2017 due to the "negative publicity" in the Indian media and an economic slow down in the Middle East.

The ED had recorded multiple statements of Najmuddin Sathak, an alleged Naik aide, who was arrested in March this year.

The ED has claimed that Sathak, a Tamil Nadu-based jeweller, was one of the directors of the Dubai-based Global Broadcasting Corporation (GBS), which telecasts Naik's speeches through Peace TV and other content provided by Naik's Harmony Media Private Limited.

According to the ED, a probe had shown that the GBS was established in 2006 and was linked to Naik.

In his statement recorded on March 28, 2018, Sathak told the ED that GBS maintained a strict, ethical standard for all its programmes as well as advertisements. It prohibited advertisements depicting women, or products, like tobacco and alcohol, after receiving negative feedback from viewers.

"The company was making profits from the beginning, but in 2015, it took a loss of about one million dirhams due to increase production cost as the programmes in Bangla and Chinese were recorded in UAE. In 2016, the revenues fell further due to the slowing of economy in the Middle East and a negative publicity in the Indian media about Naik," the ED chargesheet states, citing Sathak's statement.

Sathak told the ED that this was when the decision to sell the company was taken. The GBS was sold to a UK national in 2017.

The ED, however, has claimed that the sale was done to "obfuscate the routes undertaken for suspected money-laundering".

In its chargesheet, the ED said that the total proceeds of crime, in the case involving Naik, amounted to Rs 193.06 crore. It claimed that in response to the appeals made during his speeches, Naik received donations from "unknown sources" and layered them through his companies and close relatives.

It also states that Naik used some of the proceeds of the crime in the IRF Education Trust, claiming to use it to build a school in Chennai to launder it as "untainted money". It further said that the money was used to purchase properties in Mumbai and Pune.

A case was registered against Naik by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2016 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), following allegations that his speeches were being used to incite "terror activities".

Naik has been named an absconding accused in the chargesheet filed by the ED before a Mumbai court last week, along with IRF and Sathak. Sathak was granted bail by the court last month.