On Tuesday, the apex court of the country refused to entertain an appeal filed by Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Ahmed Watali arrested by the NIA in a case of alleged terror funding in the Kashmir valley.
Acknowledging NIA’s submissions that Watali’s release would cause great harm to the ongoing probe in the terror-funding case, the court refused to grant him bail.
Watali was arrested on August 17 last year and was charge-sheeted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on January 18, 2018, along with Pakistan-based terrorist leaders Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin, seven Kashmiri separatist leaders and others in the case of alleged terror funding in the Kashmir Valley.
Zahoor Ahmed Watali, who heads the Trison group, was considered to be a vital link among the extensive network of seditious elements in the valley. According to the IB officials, he allegedly uses his business to funnel ISI funds into Kashmir to promote separatist activities. He was believed to have developed close-knit relations with the ISI officers since his days as a driver of late Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone. He was reputed to be in constant touch with retired and serving personnel of the Pakistan Army and ISI.
This is not the first time Watali has been under the radar of security agencies. In 1990 he was arrested for sheltering terrorists in Kashmir valley. He was subsequently released in April 1991 only to be apprehended later again in August 1994 for connections with the financing of the terrorist organisation Al Burg with Pakistan’s ISI.
A thorough investigation into his bank accounts revealed that he has received extensive remittances from the bank accounts based out of the middle-east countries. NIA alleges that soon after his return from Dubai in October 2011, remittances worth lakhs were transferred to his bank accounts.
The Enforcement Directorate in April 2018 slapped FEMA notice against Watali, accusing him of working as a conduit for foreign funding into Jammu and Kashmir by terror organisations. The ED further added that he couldn’t provide satisfactory explanations about the source of the funds and the remittances he received from the foreign benefactors.
In addition to this, Watali owns large swathes of properties, not just in Jammu and Kashmir but in various parts of the country. He owns properties in plush neighbourhoods in Delhi such as Greater Kailash, Sainik Farms, Chittaranjan Park, DLF Gurgaon, and Kalkaji. He is also believed to have properties in upscale locations in London. NIA found documents at his properties during the raids, hinting that these properties might have been acquired by paying in cash.