Desk report, April 17: Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, the chief of the Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat that organised a religious congregation in India’s Delhi last month setting off India’s biggest cluster of coronavirus cases, has been charged with money laundering by the Enforcement Directorate.The police earlier on Thursday had brought charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against the 56-year-old chief of the Muslim seminary for holding the gathering last month at its “Markaz” or headquarters in Delhi’s Nizamuddin, NDTV reports.
The Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) against Maulana Saad and trusts linked to the Jamaat and others was filed by the agency based on a Delhi Police case.
Officials said the agency is investigating the finances and transactions of the Tablighi Jamaat and its officebearers over the last few days and has obtained various documents from banks and financial intelligence gathering agencies, news agency PTI reported.
Certain donations received by the organisation from foreign and domestic sources are also under the scanner of the agency, officials said.
The ED is soon expected to issue summons to Maulana Saad, reported to be in self quarantine, for questioning in the case. The agency, they said, is also looking at the opinion of medical experts about his claim of self-quarantine amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The cleric was supposed to join the investigations against him on Monday at the end of his quarantine period.
The police had sealed the Markaz of the Tablighi Jamaat group in the cramped neighbourhood and thousands of followers, including some from Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh, were taken into quarantine after it emerged they had attended meetings there in mid-March.
The police had initially filed a case against Maulana Saad Kandhalvi for violating a ban on big gatherings.
“Delhi police had filed a first information report earlier against the Tablighi chief, now section 304 has been added,” an officer said, referring to culpable homicide in the penal code, which carries a maximum punishment of a 10-year prison term.
A spokesman for the Tablighi Jamaat group, Mujeeb-ur Rehman, declined to comment saying they had not confirmed reports about the new charges.
The Tablighi is one of the world’s biggest Sunni Muslim proselytising organisations with followers in more than 80 countries. At least 9,000 people participated in the Nizamuddin event. Later, many of the attendees travelled to various parts of the country.
Authorities said at the beginning of the month that a third of the nearly 3,000 coronavirus cases at that time were either people who attended the Tablighi gathering or those who were later exposed to them.
More than 25,500 Tablighi members and their contacts have been quarantined in the country after the centre and the state governments conducted a massive operation to trace them.
India’s tally of coronavirus infections has since jumped over 12,000, including more than 400 deaths, as of Thursday.