Indian prosecutors have charged controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik with money laundering.Mr Naik, who lives in exile, is accused of acquiring $28m (£21m) worth of criminal assets, a claim he denies.Indian authorities have also accused him of spreading hate speech and inciting terrorism.Mr Naik, 53, promotes a radical form of Islam on the channel Peace TV. It is banned in India but has an estimated 200 million viewers worldwide.
Broadcasting from Dubai, Peace TV is owned by the Islamic Research Foundation, a group headed by Mr Zaik.
Other countries have banned the channel – including Bangladesh, where it is accused of inspiring one of the gunmen behind a 2016 cafe attack in Dhaka in which 22 people were killed.India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED), which investigates financial crimes, filed the charges against Mr Naik in a court in Mumbai on Thursday.
It told the court that it had identified assets worth millions of dollars as proceeds of crime.Mr Naik’s “inflammatory speeches and lectures have inspired and incited a number of Muslim youths in India to commit unlawful activities and terrorist acts”, ED told the court.The agency has accused him of using funds from “dubious or suspicious sources” to buy property in India and finance events where he made “provocative speeches”.Mr Naik says the money was obtained legitimately.
Mr Naik’s fundamentalist approach to religion has long been controversial.Many detained al-Qaeda followers have reportedly told officials that he was a huge influence on them.He was banned from entering the UK in 2010 for “unacceptable behaviour”, and because of his speeches, by then-home secretary (and now Prime Minister) Theresa May.However, it was in July 2016 when he really came to international attention, after a deadly attack on the Holey Artisan cafe in Dhaka.
The Bangladeshi media claimed that one of the gunmen had been inspired by his speeches. Later that month the Bangladeshi government banned Peace TV.In November 2016, India’s counterterrorism agency filed an official complaint against Mr Naik, accusing him of promoting religious hatred and unlawful activity.
Mr Naik moved to Malaysia in 2017.