Five men who allegedly moved funds for the banned group Popular Front of India has been arrested by the country's top anti-terror agency.
The five men ran a hawala network in Bihar and Karnataka, with links to the UAE, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said in a statement on Sunday. A hawala transaction involves money changing hands in different locations without going through the formal banking route.
Four of the arrested men are from Karnataka's Dakshin Kannada district and one from Kerala's Kasaragod. They have been identified as Mahammad Sinan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Iqbal, Abdul Rafeek and Abid KM.
"While tracing and tracking funds being moved by the PFI across the country, especially in Kerala, Karnataka, Bihar, the NIA investigation into the Phulwarisharif PFI case of Bihar led to unearthing of a large network of hawala operatives in south India," the NIA said in the statement.
The NIA said PFI members in Bihar's Phulwarisharif and Motihari planned to carry on the banned group's activity secretly and arranged weapons to kill a man in the state's East Champaran district. Three PFI members linked to this module were arrested on February 5.
Further investigation led to a long trail and the five latest arrests, the NIA said in the statement, adding the five men "have been found to be actively involved in PFI's criminal conspiracy to move and channelise illicit funds from outside India for distribution among PFI leaders and cadre."
NIA teams that have been carrying out searches in Kasargod and Dakshin Kannada for the past one week have seized digital devices and incriminating documents containing details of transactions running into several crore rupees, the central agency said.
"Pursuing the investigational leads since July 2022, the NIA team found that despite the ban on PFI imposed in September (last year), the PFI and its leaders/cadre continued to propagate the ideology of violent extremism and were also arranging arms and ammunition to commit crimes," the NIA said in the statement.
The NIA said the five men even received illegal funds from their hawala networks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The government banned the PFI last year over allegations that it had been raising funds from both India and abroad through hawala and donations as part of a "well-crafted criminal conspiracy".
"With funds and ideological support from outside, it has become a major threat to the internal security of the country," the Home Ministry had said in an order in September 2022.