The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has busted a module of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT) which has been identifying Indian Muslims abroad to fund a terror network.

Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF), which is the financial wing of the LeT, had roped in an Indian Muslim and a Pakistani to set up sleeper cells and modules to raise funds for the outfit, the NIA has said.

The two to be named by the NIA are Mohammad Salman, a resident of Delhi and Mohammad Kamran, a Dubai based Pakistani national. The NIA has also named Hafiz Saeed, the chief of the LeT and a Gujarat resident, Mohammad Arif in its charge sheet.

Indian Muslims the target

The NIA says that Saeed and his deputy Shahid Mahmood hatched a conspiracy to rope in sympathisers and create sleeper cells with a logistic base in Delhi and Haryana. To dodge the police, the cell undertook religious work and was involved in the construction of Madrasas, Mosques. Further the cell was also providing financial assistance to poor Muslim girls for their marriages.

An NIA officer informed MyNation that all this was done at the behest of the Falah-i-Insaniyat, which is the financial arm of the LeT. Explaining the conspiracy, the NIA also said that Shahid Mahmood had roped in his close associate Kamran to identify Indian Muslims in Dubai.

The brief was to identify religious minded Indian Muslims abroad so that they could donate towards the FiF. After these funds were routed to India from Pakistan and Dubai through hawala channels, the NIA also said.

Further, Kamran identified Mohammad Salman of New Delhi to receive the funds. Funds were transferred in large numbers to Delhi through hawala channels in the name of religious work such as construction of a Mosque called Khulfa-e-Rashideen in Uttawar, Palwal, Haryana and for the marriage of Muslims girls. He also deputed his employee, Mohammad Arif Gulambashir Dharampuria for monitoring the distribution and usage of these funds sent illegally into India, the NIA added.

Officials explain that there is a wing of the LeT that focuses exclusively on collecting funds under the garb of religious work. The members of these modules travel across the Muslim nations and identify Indian Muslims. They are told that they are donating towards a good cause such as undertaking religious work. While a small amount is used to construct a Madrasa or a Mosque, a major share of the collection is used for terror funding.

Dossiers that have been prepared by the Intelligence agencies show that the Indian Muslims have been targeted extensively in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and the United Kingdom.

Terror and propaganda

The financial wings of the LeT are tasked with legitimising the money that they collect through such donations. In India, it has set up Mosques and Madrasas and routes money for this purpose. In Pakistan, the LeT has set up hospitals, fish farms, carpet manufacturing units. It also collects 10% of what an agriculturist in Pakistan earns and this is known as ushr.

The idea is to keep the money flow on and these fronts are only used to legitimise the money. Ninety per cent of what is collected goes towards terror funding, officials also explain.

The outfit also relies heavily on the money that is earned through counterfeiting and drug trade as well. Intelligence Bureau estimates suggest that the Lashkar alone smuggles 5,000 tons of opium every year and the turnover is anything between 3 and 4 billion USD per year.

Apart from terror, the funds are also used for huge propaganda drives. One such drive was to rope in the Rohingya Muslims and as part of this millions were distributed. A group had been set up in Cox Bazar (Bangladesh), where blankets and cash were distributed. The main aim was to earn the trust of the Rohingyas and then use them for terror related activities.

It may be recalled that the LeT had also released a video in which its leaders are seen urging the Rohingya Muslims to join them and wage a holy war. India had identified this threat and even filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court calling them as a security threat. The affidavit had also noted that the Rohingyas have close links with Pakistan based terror organisations.

The hawala nexus

The case first came to light when the NIA raided several locations in Delhi. Three persons were arrested and the NIA accused them of indulging in hawala transactions to help the LeT funds reach India.

The NIA said that it had found several money trails between Dubai, Pakistan and India. It was also said that the money was being brought in through illegal hawala channels in the name of religious work. In reality the money was being diverted in large numbers to set up terror modules and carry out nefarious activities.

During the raid, the NIA seized Rs 1.56 crore in cash and Rs 43,000 in Nepali currency. In January the NIA had conducted raids across the country in connection with the same case. The trail led to Valsad, Delhi, Sikar, Jaipur, Surat, Kasargod and Bona. During the raids the NIA also arrested one Mohammad Hussain Molani, a resident of Jaipur. He was arrested on his arrival from Dubai and was alleged to have played a major role in the terror funding module. The NIA learnt that this module was also using the Mosques and Madrasas as hideouts and sleeper cells.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) which is also involved in the investigation had registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). It had pointed towards the various channels that the FiF had been using to bring in money to India and use it for terror. The ED also said that the operatives in India were in touch with the module members in Dubai and the intention was to carry out terror activities and create unrest in India.

Active in the cyber world

The minister of state for home, Kishan Reddy had said at a discussion in Melbourne that the FiF continues to be active in the cyber world despite being designated as a terrorist organisation. Speaking at the round table discussion on ‘Emerging Technologies and Terrorism Financing Risk,’ he presented India’s views on the two issues relating to terror funding.

Reddy said that investigations in India had revealed that terror groups had been using the encrypted platforms and Dark Web to recruit and radicalise. Further these platforms have also been used to guide recruits on how to mobilise funds, purchase weapons and also carry out attacks.

Reddy also said that virtual assets such as crypto currencies had offered an advantage to terror groups such as FiF due to their pseudonymous nature, encryption, global reach and low cost. Reddy however assured that India would fully implement the Financial Action Task Force standards apart from establishing effective AML and CFT regimes to dismantle and disrupt the terror financing networks.