August 2017 News

Terror Funding: Srinagar Businessman Linked To ISI And POK Ministers

17 August 2017
Times of India
Bharti Jain

New Delhi: Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, a prominent Srinagar-based businessman, is believed to be at the centre of a widespread network of subversive Kashmiri elements in contact with Pakistan-based persons of Indian origin and has been in regular touch with serving and retired personnel of Pakistan Army and ISI. According to sources in the Intelligence Bureau, Watali, who heads the Trison Group of companies, allegedly uses his business to channel ISI funds to India for separatist activities. He is believed to have developed entrenched connections with ISI since his days as driver of late Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone. Some of the key Pakistan military personnel he has been in touch with were identified as Brigadier Mir Hafiz Sohail of ISI, Brigadier (Retd) Javeed Aziz Kahn (ex-ISI) and Major General (Retd) Rashid Qureshi. His links to politicians across the border are also well documented. He is in direct or frequent contact with former PoK chief minister Sardar Ateaq Khan, Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhary and Federation of Pakistan's Chambers of Commerce and Industry vice-president Haji Tariq Shafi. In fact, he had invited Ateaq Khan, Chaudhary and Shafi to his son Yasin Ahmed Watali's wedding in Srinagar in September 2011. Watali is not new to controversy. He was first arrested in August 1990 for habouring militants in Kashmir. After his release in April-May 1991, he was apprehended yet again in August 1994 for connections with financing of militant outfit Al Burq by Pakistan's ISI. In 2005, there were indications that Watali had been acting as conduit for the clandestine flow of large amounts of money from ISI to various separatists bodies in J&K and for the rebuilding of Charar-e-Sharief mosque. A detailed investigation into his bank accounts with RAK Bank, UAE (two accounts) and J&K Bank, Air Cargo branch, Srinagar in the past had revealed large inward remittances. One remittance that came under the scanner was for $31,250 made on October 21, 2011, soon after Watali's visit to Dubai during October 25-29, 2011. There were large remittances of money worth lakhs into Watali's account in RAK Bank between May and October 2011, the source of which remains unknown. Despite these large inflows, Zahoor filed a Rs 13.36 lakh income for financial year 2009-10 and paid just Rs 1.12 lakh as tax. Watali owns a large number of properties not only in Jammu & Kashmir but also at expensive locations in Delhi such as Greater Kailash, Sainik Farms, Chittaranjan Park, DLF Gurgaon and Kalkaji, as well as in London. NIA sources said they found notings during the recent raid, pointing to the large cash component paid to acquire some of these properties. Watali had a FCNRE account in HSBC, GK-I branch, Delhi, into which large foreign inward remittances were received prior to 2005. Though FCNRE facility is available to those who remain away from India for at least 180 days in a financial year, a scrutiny of his immigration records had revealed that he had not been away from India for as many days during the relevant period.

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