After putting Shiv Sena politician Sanjay Raut under its scanner, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is questioning former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for alleged money laundering via Jammu and Kashmir Bank. The agency is questioning Abdullah at its headquarters in New Delhi, sources said.
The National Conference called the development “political in nature” and a “fishing expedition”. It also asked why Abdullah was called to Delhi during Ramzan (Ramadan) when Delhi is not his primary residence.
The ED is questioning Abdullah for some directorial appointments in the bank he allegedly influenced. The bank has been under probe since 2019 for alleged irregularities in disbursal of loans, nepotism in appointments and dubious banking practices. The Anti-Corruption Bureau of Jammu and Kashmir lodged several FIRs against the bank and its office bearers in the year when the parliament virtually repealed Article 370 and bifurcated the state into two union territories with the promise that Jammu and Kashmir will get back its status of a state when the time for it is conducive.
Based on these FIRs, the ED registered a case of money laundering in 2019. The agency had earlier also summoned PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti in connection with the case. “The central government has made a habit of misusing investigative agencies and this is another step in the same direction. No political party that puts up meaningful opposition to the BJP has been spared, whether it is the ED, CBI, NIA, NCB – all have been used for political purposes,” the NC said in a statement.
Raising questions on the timing, the party of the Abdullah family said, “In spite of it being the holy month of Ramzan, and Delhi not being his primary place of residence, Mr Abdullah did not seek a postponement or a change of venue and appeared as per the notice.”
The statement, which claimed Abdullah was innocent, said further, “We have no doubt that this fishing expedition will yield no concrete results to the BJP… Even though this exercise is political in nature, Mr Omar Abdullah will cooperate with investigative agencies as there is no wrongdoing on his part and he is not an accused in any matter under investigation.”
Prior to 5 August 2019, the union government had already removed Parvez Ahmed as the chairman of Jammu & Kashmir Bank, an appointment that was allegedly made at the behest of Abdullah. In a clampdown on alleged corruption, nepotism, favouritism and non-transparent employment, the Ministry of Home Affairs had called for a cleansing operation in Jammu & Kashmir Bank to bring transparency and accountability in its functioning while ensuring compliance with RBI directives to bring checks and balances.
The government directed the bank in question to separate the positions of chairman and managing director for better governance and ensure high levels of financial probity. According to sources, both ACB and ED have been probing
- how hundreds of the branches were allotted to select individuals for Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1.5 crore a branch while the actual cost is only 30% of the money paid;
- how a Class 12 pass brother of a former minister and an ex-chief minister’s relative was appointed directly as manager through the backdoor and posted in the bank’s Bhaderwahbranch;
- how loans worth crores were allotted without formalities in brazen violation of SOPs and guidelines to select persons recommended by politicians, and
- how overdrafts of hefty amounts were released to habitual defaulters of other banks.
The bank is accused also of making one-time settlements with select defaulters allegedly against huge kickbacks, even as Rs 8 crore were spent as corporate social responsibility on beautification of the Royal Spring Golf Course, which an official said has no utility for ordinary citizens.