The NIA on Monday summoned former Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang for questioning in connection with an alleged "tax collection and terror funding" case while the leader through a letter to the agency expressed his inability to appear due to assembly session beginning on Tuesday and sought a fresh date.
The case pertains to alleged extortion by groups such as NSCN(K), NSCN(IM) and Naga National Council from at least 14 government departments.
Zeliang has been asked to appear at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) headquarters here on Tuesday with relevant documents.
Replying to the NIA summons, Zeliang in a communication to the agency said, "You would kindly appreciate that in view of the Assembly Session, I am required to attend the session as the Leader of Opposition."
"As such, it is not possible for me to appear before you as per summons at such a short notice. I shall, therefore, be grateful if I am summoned to appear before you on another date after the session," Zeliang added.
Meanwhile, the opposition NPF has questioned the BJP-led government at the Centre as to whether a "well-webbed political vendetta is being played out against Zeliang".
"A devious game is being played against former Chief Minister by the NIA which is tasked with looking into terror activities in the country but now appears to be used to grind the proverbial political axe," the NPF statement said.
In April last year, the NIA had arrested three senior officials of the Nagaland government for their alleged role in large scale extortion and illegal tax collection on behalf of the NSCN(K) from various government departments.
The three arrested accused included Tulula Pongen, Joint Director in Department of Social Welfare in Nagaland, Alienba Pangjung Jamir, Joint Director in Department of Land Resources in Kohima and K. Lashito Sheqi, Cashier in Department of Land Resources in Kohima.
The NIA probe has revealed that the three accused had diverted government funds to the banned outfit which is engaged in unlawful activities, agency sources said.
In 2016, the NIA had registered a case to probe allegations of large scale extortion and illegal tax collection on behalf of the banned terrorist organization NSCN (K) from various government organizations and others by the outfit's cadres in Dimapur and Kohima.
Ahead of the Assembly election in the state, the NIA had also summoned Zeliang's Officer on Special Duty and two of his office staff for questioning in connection with the alleged terror funding case.
On January 18, 2017, the NIA had conducted searches in various government departments in Nagaland and seized receipts that showed payments to the tune of Rs 2 crore.
The agency had said that these seizures prima facie indicate the connivance of these government organisations in funding various underground organisations operating in Nagaland.
According to sources, these departments include the Directorate of Information Technology, Directorate of Soil and Water Conservation, Directorate of Irrigation, Directorate of Rural Development, Directorate of Urban Development, PWD, Roads and Buildings, and Directorate of Information and Public Relations.
S. Khetoshe Sumi, a senior cadre of NSCN(K), was apprehended by the Assam Rifles in Dimapur on July 31, 2016, according to the NIA.
Sumi reportedly revealed that he was the organisation's "in-charge of finance" and his key responsibility was to collect funds through illegal taxation of various government departments, the NIA said.
The NIA probe into government workers and underground funding is a sensitive subject in Nagaland.
In November 2017, massive protests rocked Kohima after seven government officials were reportedly arrested for funding underground groups, called Naga National Political Groups, through taxation.
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