New Delhi, Mar 18:Terror mastermind Masood Azhar had undertaken a month-long sojourn to England to collect funds for militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir and received Rs 15 lakh (Pakistani currency), though he got a “very poor” response while travelling to Sharjah and Saudi Arabia before arriving in India in 1994.
Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad, responsible for a series of terror strikes in India including the attack on Parliament in 2001 and a CRPF convoy in Pulwama last month, had procured a Pakistani passport in his real name and original address in 1986 and had extensively toured African and Gulf countries where he realised that the Arab nations were not sympathetic to the “Kashmir cause”.
Three government officials have been arrested by the National Investigation Agency for allegedly paying huge amounts of money to various terror groups. The officials who were arrested are G Ikuto Zhimomi, Director, Directorate of Agriculture, Kohima, Nagaland, Sh Ketouzo Peseyie, Executive- Engineer, Directorate of Rural Development, Kohima and Sangtemchuba, Divisional Accounts Officer, Directorate of Urban Development, Kohima.
Kashmiri separatist Yasin Malik has been arrested for his alleged role in receiving funds to fuel the unrest. The National Investigation Agency which is probing a case of terror funding has also sealed the house of separatist, Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
The agreement between India and the United Arab Emirates to fight terrorism is a significant one and if what is on paper is acted upon it could go a long way in curbing the likes of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and activities of the D-gang.
The biggest plus of this agreement if acted upon would be curbing the flow of terror funds.
While India looks to choke the finances of Dawood Ibrahim, there are also growing concerns of how several Saudi and Kuwaiti nationals are helping Indians wanting to tread the terror path.
The Indian government has decided that it would crack down on the Rs 3000 crore worth of assets belonging to Dawood Ibrahim in India, but on the other hand is the growing charity done by Saudi and Kuwaiti nationals which is helping youth take the path of terror with ease.
The Financial Intelligence Unit in India has a big task ahead of it. Black money, counterfeit currency, terror funds in the stock market and also hawala transactions will be the primary focus of this unit in the months to come.
The revelation against HSBC has woken up the Indian agencies who have now put its India employees under the scanner. The Revenue Intelligence wing and also the Reserve Bank of India will probe some rogue elements in the bank who could have possibly facilitated this offence which helped drug lords and terrorist groups park money by hoodwinking the security agencies.
This is however not for the first time that the HSBC has shown signs of vulnerability in its security set up. A couple of years back, the police had picked up one employee of the same bank by the name Nadeem Kashmiri who was allegedly siphoning off funds to off shore accounts and also stealing data and providing them to some persons.
At the time of his arrest the police had said that he could be a pawn in a huge syndicate and was stealing confidential data of customers in Britain and passing it on to some persons who could have been misusing such data. It was also alleged that he had siphoned off funds to the tune of 233000 pounds.
Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that the case on hand and also that of Kashmiri’s are quite different. However the fact remains that there are such elements who commit such frauds and these are the kind of persons who could have helped some drug lords and terror groups set up accounts and go about their transactions.
While it is common knowledge that there are middle men who set up these accounts, the fact remains that unless and until there is an inner hand such transactions cannot be possible.
The Indian agencies will work closely with their counterparts in the United States of America apart from seeking details from the bank about some of the employees who have already been placed on the radar.
Those Indian employees who will come under the scanner may have not been directly aware of who exactly they were helping. It is usually made to look like an offence pertaining to black money and money laundering. Most of the time the employees would not be aware that this money is being parked by drug lords or terrorists. It is a well knit network and it happens on scales both big and small.
Sources say that it does not matter if these persons knew what the money was being used for, but the fact that they have overseen transactions in order to push their sale or for a bribe is a financial crime and can be tried in the Indian courts.
India is extremely serious about such offences and has been fighting a major battle both against money laundering and also fake currency. Such employees are aware that such offences usually fall under the ambit of a fraud case which can be bailable after a certain amount of time. However now the Indian agencies have proposed to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to combat this menace of money laundering. If the amendment comes through then money laundering would fall under a terrorism offence. In addition to this the proposed amendment also looks at widening the scope and bringing fake currency also under the same ambit.
If the amendment comes through then such offences on Indian soil is going to reduce a great deal. Most of these bankers may indulge in fraud for the want of some money, but if the offence is covered under terrorism then they would think several times, police officials say.
The other aspect would be to have a proper investigation and ensure that the guilty are brought to book. They would not want it to go the Nadeem Kashmiri way where a hue and cry was first made about his international terror links only to go slow later on the case for want of proper evidence. Today the strongest case that the police have against Kashmiri is that he had forged marks cards to get a job.It is hard to get proper evidence in such cases and hence the police are looking for a law that could act as a major deterrent, sources say.
The probe in the HSBC case is going to take months, Indian agencies point out. They are still in the process of identifying the accounts and also those persons who had dealt with them. Once the probe commences in full swing all those involved with a particular transaction and those authorities in charge of the branch could be made collectively responsible for the offence. It is a huge syndicate that not involves the drug lords and terrorists. Right from the middle men to those who facilitated this crime in the banks would all be probed and charged once the investigation is complete, an officer stated.
Very recently a politician who was about to lose face parked a large amount of money in a bank at Mauritius. A confidential document to this effect goes on to show that post wiki leaks and the Swiss bank fiasco, a lot of the money transaction has shifted to banks in Mauritius. The bigger worry however is where there is black money terror always follows.
Mauritius is becoming a hot bed for illegal money and this is more to do with the fact that some of the banks over there have become extremely liberal. It all started with terror groups parking funds in benami names and now this has attracted money launders as well. A report by the International Monetary Fund too goes on to state that the Mauritius is becoming more global and hence the risk of laundering too has increased.
Indian Intelligence Bureau officials say that there is a great deal of investment that is being found in this country and it has become very difficult to track the original source of the income. People have been found to be investing money in the names of their brothers or distant relatives and hence the trail become extremely difficult unless and until there is proper assistance from the officials of that country.
Even terrorist organisations who are supported by the well established Dawood network have been investing in a great deal of property in Mauritius. Trails of these investments can also be found in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.
Investigators have found it difficult to track the money since there is a lot of mixed funding that could be found in these countries. Investigators also do not rule out the nexus between some terror groups and politicians who have used these countries as a safe parking ground for their funds. There is a need to thoroughly investigate these cases and also bifurcate between the two forms of money that is being parked over here.
The Indian IB says that there is a need to scrutinise the banks or financial institutions in particular since these can lead us up to the trail. They have become extremely liberal in nature and according to the confidential document these institutions have been offering various sops so that parking the money becomes extremely easy. Interest rates of over 20 per cent, very little questioning and documentation have made parking of illegal money very easy. Moreover they are favouring investments from non residents and there is no proper track record of those who have been laundering the money in case the need for proper documentation to track the trail arises.
For the Intelligence Bureau the bigger headache has however been the parking of terror funds in these countries. There is a steep increase of funds in the past couple of years and it is going un noticed by the government over there. The international community has not yet woken up to this grave issue like how they have done in the case of the Swiss bank and until there is a proper awareness the issue is likely to remain unresolved for many years.
While India claims that it needs to support of the international community in resolving this menace, the rest of the world feels that a lot of money that is being pumped into this country is done through the underworld and the drug cartel operating out of India. The international community states that the money that is being raised through these operations is used directly to fund terror. The hawala remittance where India is concerned has been notorious in Kerala. However there are trails to show that such money is also being pumped into Mauritius as they find it to be safer over there.
There are various reports which show that in the past three years the hawala transactions into these countries pumped in by the Underworld/drug cartel and kin of politicians amounts to nearly Rs 2000 crore. All this money according to the report was initially shown as an investment from India, but mysteriously vanished once it reached these tax havens.
The Indian Intelligence Bureau says that there is a clear bifurcation in the manner in which these terror groups have been working. They have undoubtedly been using these tax havens to park their funds, but have ensured that none of their modules have been operating out of these places. It is a deliberate ploy on their part since they too are aware that they cannot afford to have so much heat in one particular country.
A group such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba has very safely installed its modules in countries such as Nepal and Maldives and they use the funds from these tax havens to carry forth their activitiy. In fact in a country such as Maldives they have managed to stake a control over the 300 odd isolated islands and their bases are being set up at a very quick pace. It is still a virgin module in Maldives and they would only use it against India when the time comes. These modules are building up slowly and today they have over a 1000 operatives at their disposal.
The worry is that they are facing no problem when raising of funds is concerned. Earlier the money raised through the drug trade and also counterfeiting was in circulation within India. However with the noose a bit tight today they have begun parking their money in these tax havens, which is surely a cause for concern for India.
India has its task cut out since any form of such activity does tend to affect us first. It is a constant cat and mouse game and there is a need to be alert at all times since terror groups have been adopting newer methods all the time. Moreover to make matters worse some of the politicians too have been using these tax havens and this gives them automatic protection since the policy to track such money becomes weak thanks to the high profile personalities involved in this money laundering racket.