NIA office. Photo: Mathrubhumi
New Delhi: The NIA on Tuesday claimed to have busted a multi-state hawala network funding the Popular Front of India's terror activities with the arrest of five members of the banned outfit in Karnataka and Kerala.
The agency said despite the ban imposed on it on September 27 last year, PFI leaders and members continued to propagate the ideology of violent extremism and were also arranging arms and ammunition to commit crimes.
"NIA teams have been carrying out extensive searches in Kasargod (Kerala) and Dakshin Kannada, Karnataka, since Sunday. Searches were conducted at eight locations leading to the seizure of multiple digital devices and incriminating documents containing details of transactions running into several crores of rupees," a spokesperson of the agency said.
The official said Popular Front of India (PFI) members Mahammad Sinan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Iqbal and Abdul Rafeek M of Karnataka and Abid K M of Kerala have been arrested.
The arrest followed tracing and tracking of funds being moved by the PFI across the country, especially in Kerala, Karnataka and Bihar, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) spokesperson said, adding that the agency's investigations into the Phulwarisharif PFI case of Bihar have led to the unearthing of a large network of hawala operatives in south India.
"A PFI funding-by-hawala module operating out of Bihar and Karnataka with roots in the UAE has been busted with the arrests of the five operatives," the official said.
"PFI cadres in Phulwarisharif and Motihari had vowed to continue PFI activities in a clandestine manner in Bihar and had also arranged a firearm and ammunition recently to eliminate a youth of a particular community in Bihar's East Champaran district. Three operatives of the module had been arrested on February 5," the spokesperson said.
The official said people arrested from Karnataka and Kerala have been found to be actively involved in PFI's criminal conspiracy to move and channelise illicit funds procured from outside India for distribution among leaders and members of the banned group.
Earlier, seven accused persons had been arrested when they had gathered in the Phulwarisharif area of Bihar's Patna in July last year for training and to carry out acts of terror and violence, the spokesperson said.
Pursuing leads since July last year, the official said the NIA team found that despite the ban on its activities in September last year, the PFI continued to propagate the ideology of violent extremism and were also arranging arms and ammunition to commit crimes.
Following the leads, the official said, the NIA investigators reached Nawaz and Sinan, who had been found making deposits in the bank accounts of accused and suspects in the PFI case.
"Dogged pursuit of the money trail and connecting the dots, the NIA managed to unravel the international conspiracy and linkages to the funds while investigating Iqbal and other associates who had collected illegally generated funds from Dubai and Abu Dhabi and handed them over to Sinan, Nawaz, Rafeek and Abid in India," the spokesperson said.
"Investigations have shown that Sarfaraz, Sinan and Rafeek deposited this money in different bank accounts of the accused and the suspects," the official said.
The NIA said further investigations are on to track to trace and choke international as well domestic illicit funding channels of the PFI.
The five accused will be produced in the NIA Special Court Patna, the spokesperson said.