The Vadodara Police Special Investigation Team (SIT), formed to investigate the alleged case of “illegal financing of Islamic activities” by the AFMI Charitable Trusts, including the construction of mosques and legal aid to accused of riots and anti-CAA protesters on Sunday began questioning the two defendants – Salahuddin Sheikh and Mohammad Umar Gautam.
Police said the two were being questioned separately. Following a hearing after midnight – a first for a court in Vadodara, police in Vadodara town were granted seven days in custody for the two defendants until October 23.
Deputy Police Commissioner (ACP) DS Chauhan, who oversees the SIT investigation, told the newspaper that police arrested the two men around 2:30 a.m. Sunday after the court considered the request for pre-trial detention in 19 points filed by the Vadodara police.
Among the grounds for pre-trial detention, police told the court that an investigation was needed into the accused’s links to persons associated with certain banned organizations, in addition to the embezzlement of foreign funds for “”Islamic activitiesAs well as the hawala transactions.
Police will also investigate the defendants’ links in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Assam, where they have reportedly funded the construction of more than 100 mosques.
Chauhan told this newspaper: “While Salahuddin is from Vadodara, Umar Gautam is from Delhi and he said that his family of Rajput origin converted to Islam in 1984 when he was there. ‘university. We are also investigating their connection to Abdullah Fefdawala of Nabipur in Bharuch, who established the Majlis-e-Al-Fala Trust which transferred Rs 2.06 crore during the period under investigation. “
According to Chauhan, Fefda-wala, a businessman, left Nabipur for the UK and police came across a video of him giving “hate speech”. Chauhan said: “The defendants have close ties to Fefdawala and the money trail is incriminating.” SIT also sent a summons to Fefdawala at his residences in Nabipur and the UK.
Chauhan also added that two others, including Mustafa Thanawala, had also been ordered to remain present in front of the SIT before October 21.
Police said the SIT also investigated questions put to the two defendants by UP ATS while they had been in their custody since July, particularly regarding the part of religious conversions allegedly by the Da’wah Center run by Umar Gautam. . “On some issues the defendants are cooperating and on others they are not … We have also recorded statements from some additional people, which will be used for questioning them,” Chauhan said.
Among the points mentioned in the referral request is also a specific investigation into the alleged meetings held in Bharuch to “plan anti-CAA demonstrations”. Chauhan said: “We had submitted 19 points to the court in our request for pre-trial detention, which includes that the defendants are involved in serious offenses… We will also be probing the financial transaction data that the defendants said they stored on a Hard disk.”
Officials added that an investigation would also be carried out to determine whether Gautam and Sheikh have any ties to other Da’wah centers, across the world and Islamic speakers like Zakir Naik. The links of the AFMI trusts in Kashmir are also under the scanner.
On Saturday, the Vadodara court placed Salahuddin Sheikh, managing director of the AFMI Charitable Trust, and Umar Gautam of the Da’wah Islamic Center in Delhi in custody by Lucknow police.
According to Vadodara Police, 14 foreign trusts have deposited around Rs 19 crore into the AFMI trust account since 2017. The money was embezzled from the trust’s FCRA account for allegedly funding Gautam’s Islamic Da’wah Center and the Fatima Charitable Trust with Rs 10 crore in four years. According to sources, the AFMI received the funds from six UK-based Islamic trusts run by people of Gujarati descent.
These trusts include the US-based Gujarati Muslim Association, A Kareem Pathan, Ankur H Shah and Minnati Shah, Y Mam-dani Charitable Foundation, Retail Global Fashion, Human Concern International, Abdul Sattar I Saika and Ismail Ibrahim Kadujmar, based in UK, Excel, Majlis Al-Fala Trust, Firdaus Foundation, Bacchon Ka Ghar and MYL Limbada, based in Australia.