The Enforcement Directorate on Monday questioned National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah in connection with a money laundering investigation related to alleged financial irregularities in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association, ANI reported.

Abdullah was the president of the state cricket body between 2001 and 2011, when the alleged irregularities worth Rs 113 crore reportedly took place.

The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and parliamentarian appeared before investigators at the ED’s Srinagar office. Unidentified officials told PTI that the National Conference president’s statement will be recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The Enforcement Directorate summoned him for questioning after taking cognisance of a first information report and chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the case on July 18, 2018, according to NDTV.

The ED had questioned Abdullah in August 2019 as well, before the Centre revoked autonomy and special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370. At that time, Farooq Abdullah had told the investigation agency that he had “done no wrong” and was open to scrutiny.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah called the summons a “political vendetta”, coming days after the formation of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration. “To set the record straight no raids are being conducted at Dr Sahib’s residence,” he tweeted.

Omar Abdullah added that the ED’s action displayed the extent of the Centre’s “nervousness about mainstream parties in J&K fighting as one unit”. “Also reeks of political vendetta and won’t in the least blunt our collective resolve to fight for our rights,” he tweeted.

The new alliance takes its name from a series of meetings held at Gupkar, in Srinagar, once the political nerve centre of Jammu and Kashmir. On August 4, 2019, just before they were whisked away into months of detention, political leaders from most pro-India parties in Kashmir had met at Gupkar and vowed to protect Kashmir’s special status.

On August 22 this year, representatives of four regional parties and two national parties met again in Gupkar to renew the pledge. The formal alliance was announced as Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and People’s Democratic Party leader, was released after 14 months of detention.

‘Price for opposing BJP’s divisive politics’: National Conference

Meanwhile, the National Conference called it a witch hunt and said the ED summons to Farooq Abdullah was clearly “the result of the unity that Dr Sahib has been able to forge among mainstream political parties in J&K”.

‘This is the price one faces when opposed to BJP’s ideology and divisive politics,” a party spokesperson said in a statement. “Recent history is a witness to how BJP has been employing coercive and intimidative measures through various departments to target opposition leaders across the country. The recent ED summon to Dr Farooq Abdullah is a case in point.”

The National Conference also questioned the timing of the investigation. “His previous summons were just before August 5 last year and today’s summon comes within days of forming the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration of which Dr Farooq Abdullah has taken a lead,” the statement added. “Dr Farooq Abdullah continues to maintain his innocence and will cooperate with the authorities in what is nothing but a witch hunt.”

The Board of Control for Cricket in India granted Rs 112 crore to the state cricket body between 2002 and 2011 to develop the sport. The Central Bureau of Investigation had alleged that around Rs 43 crore of this amount was siphoned off by the accused. The central agency took over the case from the state police in 2015 following an order by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

The scam came to light in March 2012 when J&K Cricket Association Treasurer Manzoor Wazir filed a complaint against the cricket body’s general secretary at the time, Mohammad Saleem Khan, and former treasurer Ahsan Mirza. Jammu and Kashmir Bank official Bashir Ahmed was also named in the chargesheet.