The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday conducted multi-city searches in connection with a money laundering case filed against Tablighi Jamaat leader Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, trusts linked to the Jamaat and others, officials said. They said various premises in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and a few other locations are being raided to collect evidence.
The action is being carried out under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the ED said. The central probe agency had filed a money laundering case in April against Maulana Saad and others after it took cognisance of a Delhi Police complaint against these entities.
The Delhi Police crime branch had on March 31 lodged an FIR against seven people, including the cleric, on a complaint by the station house officer (SHO) of Nizamuddin police station for holding a congregation of Tablighi Jamaat followers in alleged violation of the orders against large gatherings to contain the spread of coronavirus. Maulana Saad was alleged to have organised the religious gathering in March at Nizamuddin Markaz in violation of social distancing protocol imposed by the Centre to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The ED later took over the case and is looking at the personal finances and charges of alleged money laundering against Maulana Saad and some other office bearers and associates of the Tablighi Jamaat. Certain donations received by the Islamic organisation from foreign and domestic sources are also under the scanner of the agency.
In an audio message released after the Delhi Police case, Maulana Saad had said he was exercising self-quarantine after several hundreds who visited the congregation at Nizamudddin Markaz tested positive for COVID-19. The police FIR registered against the Tablighi Jamaat event said Delhi Police contacted authorities of Nizamuddin Markaz on March 21 and reminded them of the government order, which prohibited any political or religious gathering of more than 50 people.
It says that despite repeated efforts, the event organisers failed to inform the health department or any other government agency about the huge gathering inside the Markaz and deliberately disobeyed government orders. More than 25,500 Tablighi members and their contacts have been quarantined in the country after the Centre and the state governments conducted a "mega operation" to identify them, the government had said.
At least 9,000 people participated in the religious congregation in Nizamuddin. Later, many of these travelled to various parts of the country. Some of the foreign nationals who participated in the congregation have been recently allowed to walk free and return to their countries by local courts on payment of varying fines, after they accepted mild charges under the plea bargain process.
However, a number of them could not fly back to their countries due to the pendency of some other police FIRs lodged against them for the same offence.