Friday, July 3, 2020

Hawala funded Shopping malls, shops, political parties in Kashmir?

Syed Junaid Hashmi

JAMMU, Nov 21: From financing media outlets to investing money in real estate, separatist leaders have used money channelled through Hawala sources for making personal fortunes without any fear of being caught of questioned by the state.

Various central as well as state agencies have deliberately remained silent and allowed the transfer of money over the last 27 years, says an investigation report. Report adds that terrorists and their friends have over the years improvised on their mode of transfer of money from overseas. “Direct transfers from Pakistan have stopped. The money for funding separatist activities in Kashmir now comes from US, England, Middle East and some European countries,” the report maintains.

It asserts that the money is routed through NGOs, Orphanages and private hospitals. “The money is sent to these institutions as charity. Once received, the money is withdrawn and handed over to the operators in valley and other parts of the state,” report says. Though the terror funding mechanism is under the close scrutiny of enforcement and intelligence agencies but not much success has been achieved in completely stopping the flow of Hawala money to separatists and their friends.

A multi-disciplinary group at state and central level had been long ago entrusted with responsibility of enquiring into the sources of funding of separatists and terrorists but nothing was ever heard from this group. The report has details about a media outlet which was handed over an amount of Rs. 40 Lakhs for starting its publications. It asserts that sole aim was countering the Indian narrative in Kashmir valley and creating space for a Kashmiri narrative.

Not only this, the reports further says that so-called separatist leader who handed over thus huge amount to the owner and editor of a media outlet later developed serious differences with him and parted ways. It further says that not only was this media outlet but another separatist leader who is a chain smoker and had once tried to outrage modesty of a female Journalist had invested a huge amount in a shopping mall in valley.

Another separatist had used money from Hawala Channels in establishing himself as mainstream politician, report says while adding that cross-LOC trade had become another money gathering route for this leader. “From paying for air-tickets to facilitating separatist leaders in five and seven star hotels; New Delhi too played its part in ensuring that Hawala route remains open and ill-gotten money continues to reach Jammu and Kashmir,” adds the report.

Though the report claims that special attention was being paid for terror funding of separatists and terror groups in Kashmir and the constitution of combating of funding of terrorists (CFT) was a step in this direction. It adds that a terror funding and fake currency (TFFC) Cell was constituted National Investigation Agency (NIA) to focus on investigating the flow of money into anti-national activities but not much progress has been made.

It needs to be mentioned here that Enforcement Directorate (ED) on November 1, 2011 booked four traders, engaged in business across the Line of Control (LoC), under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), in connection with a Hawala (illegal money transfer) racket for the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). ED had sent one of its senior officers to the Valley to review Hawala cases, and decided to take up this case dating back to 2009.

Notably, J&K Police had uncovered this Hawala network in 2009, and had identified traders and businessmen in Punjab and Jammu who had allegedly channelled funds to Hafiz Sayeed’s Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed militants in the Kashmir valley for a fee. After channelling money through banks and other sources, friends of separatists and terrorists began taking advantage of the absence of legal banking facilities for trade across the LoC, which is based on a barter system.

As the cross LoC trade seems to have improved the relations between the traders on both sides of the dividing line, same has been misused by many by acting as conduits of passing Hawala money into the state, meant for terrorist and separatists, says the report. A total of 98 persons were arrested and an amount of Rs 12.3 million was recovered, as part of efforts to check the pumping of Hawala money into J&K.

In addition to Indian currency, the agencies recovered 73,500 Saudi Arabian Riyal, Euro notes of 500 denomination valuing Rs 150,000, 2,000 UK pounds and cheques worth Rs 50,000. While 28 cases were registered and 66 persons were arrested, with a seizure of Rs 7.7 million, in 2009, the number of cases registered in 2010 stood at 10, with 15 persons arrested and a recovery of Rs 998,500. Nine cases have been registered in 2011 (till July), with 17 arrests and a seizure of Rs 3.6 million.

The arrested persons belonged to both separatist groups and terrorist outfits. The separatist groups involved included Tehreek-e-Hurriyat led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani; Kashmir Mass Movement; the Sajad Gani Lone led People’s Conference; Shabir Ahmad Shah’s Democratic Freedom Party (DFP); the Yasin Malik led Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF); the Islamic Students Front; and Mahz-e-Azadi. The terrorist organizations involved included HM, Al-Badr, LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM), Al-Umer, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JuM), Al-Burq and Islamic Front.

Hawala, the informal transfer of money, has been in existence for almost three centuries in India and other Asian countries. In the recent past, Kashmir has emerged a prominent locus for such transactions, as extremist outfits in countries grouped under the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) send money to terrorist groups in the state. Intelligence agencies estimate that about 90-95 percent of extremist funding comes through this channel, with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia the primary sources of these illegal flows.




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