Coronavirus | Foreign attendees at Tablighi Jamaat congregation under ED lens

Financial transactions of over 2,000 Tablighi participants being probed

April 22, 2020 10:32 pm | Updated April 23, 2020 09:54 am IST - NEW DELHI

Members of the Tablighi Jamaat leaving for a quarantine centre from a hospital in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Members of the Tablighi Jamaat leaving for a quarantine centre from a hospital in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The Enforcement Directorate is probing the financial transactions related to over 2,000 foreign nationals who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Nizamuddin here this March. The agency had earlier registered a money laundering case based on an FIR lodged by the Delhi police.

The foreigners had come from more than 40 countries. Most of them were from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Malaysia. They face allegations of violating visa rules and the Foreigners Act provisions, besides visiting restricted areas during the lockdown without permission.

Also read: Home Ministry asked States to identify 824 foreign Tablighi members

The government has blacklisted about 1,000 such foreign nationals, while the police have issued look-out circulars against close to 1,900.

“We are pursuing all the aspects of money-laundering allegations, including financial transactions pertaining to those who came from abroad. Statements of those named in the case and the others involved will be recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act,” said an ED official.

e-visa loopholes

Another government official raised questions over the manner in which e-tourist visas were granted to so many foreigners who participated in the congregation.

Also read: Tablighi Jamaat meet: 46 foreigners jailed for violation of visa norms

There is no system of verification of e-visa applications, which directly go to the server and are processed automatically. The applicants have to provide correct information about only three things: name, date of birth and place of birth, which are already mentioned in their passports, said the official.

“This exposes the failure in devising a due-diligence process in issuing e-visas. There are specific missionaries visa rules for Tablighi works. All such applications have to be referred to the Union Home Ministry along with the relevant details of applicants,” said the official.

The official said: “However, in this case, the foreign nationals in question applied for, and got, e-tourist visas. We suspect that they were specifically told to apply under this category.”

The trend was detected only after the agencies concerned found that the foreigners who attended the congregation had come on e-tourist visas. “Earlier, in February, it happened in the case of United Kingdom parliamentarian Debbie Abrahams, whose visa was revoked,” the official said.

Explaining the process followed in various categories, the official said for transit and medical visas, applications of Pakistani nationals and those of Pakistani origin have to be referred to the Home Ministry. No tourist visa is granted to Pakistani passport holder, while applications from those of Pakistani origin are also referred.

Prior reference to the Home Ministry is also made in case the employment visa applications by the nationals of Afghanistan, China and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin, and business visa applications by the nationals of Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan and those of Pakistani origin.

According to government records, more than 25 lakh e-visas were issued in 2018 — an almost five-fold increase from 5.29 lakh in 2015.

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