Saturday, April 29, 2006

Pravin wants to meet Pramod

Mahajan Saga Takes New Turn

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: BJP leader Pramod Mahajan’s younger brother Pravin, who had told the police on Saturday that he would have emptied all six bullets into his elder brother had his pistol not got jammed, has expressed his desire to visit the BJP leader who is fighting for his life at Hinduja Hospital.

An officer from the probe team said Pravin, who is presently in the Agripada lockup, had kept to himself and showed no traces of emotion when he was produced in court on Sunday. He reportedly borrowed newspapers from the police guards at the lock-up and read every bit of information on Mahajan. “We have seen him devour all the news about Mahajan,’’ a source said, adding that on the first three days when he spent a few hours at the Worli police
station, he would intently watch TV for news on his brother and his own family.

“On the third day Pravin told a policeman, who was posted in the room at Worli police station where he was being questioned, that he wanted to see his elder brother,’’ the source said. However, senior officers refused to say whether Pravin’s wish would be fulfilled.

The Times of India, April 29, 2006

Friday, April 28, 2006

Death comes calling on D clan

The family loses its only adult male member outside jail in India. Business shuts down in locality though police officials say they don’t suspect any foul play

S Ahmed Ali & Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: The only adult male member of the Dawood clan outside prison in Mumbai, Danish Parkar, died on the Goa-Mumbai highway after his car hit a truck head-on.

Dawood’s nephew, who would have surrendered to the J J Marg police if he returned alive (for allegedly cutting off the portion of a man’s tongue), was driving his Wagon-R. One of the four others in the car, Murshid (spiritual guide) Shajauddin Sajjad Gaur, who was attached to Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti’s dargah in Ajmer, died at the Mangaon Civil Hospital near the accident site 125 km from Mumbai.

Three others, Imran Khan, Sameer Qureishi and Abid Khan, sustained multiple injuries and were admitted to Sion Hospital. Assistant dean Rakesh Verma they were stable and out of danger.

SRPF jawans and home guards were posted at the hospital to prevent untoward incidents.

Danish had taken Shajauddin and
his friends to Khed, where he had bought a plot of land. He wanted Shajauddin to see the plot as he felt it would bring him luck, Danish’s friends later told TOI.

Motiratan Singh, driver of the truck that hit Danish’s car, fled the spot leaving the loaded vehicle in the middle of the road. A biker reportedly informed the highway police about the accident.

Alibaug superintendent of police P Vatkar said: “The head-to-head collision with the truck took place between 5.30 am and 6 am near Mangaon. It seems Danish was driving very fast and lost control before it collided with the truck. The truck driver is a resident of Haryana and is yet to be traced. We are questioning the cleaner about the accident.’’

The Mangaon police informed the Parkars of the accident over telephone at 8 am, after which the family and its friends rushed to Mangaon.

Danish’s mother, Haseena Parkar, fainted when she saw her son’s body in the hospital after which she was
given some sedatives and rushed back to Mumbai.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Gordan Hall, the Parkars’ residence where Danish lived with his mother, younger sister Humaira and brother Alishaan. He married in May 2004 and had a one-year-old son. Two car-loads of cops and SRPF japwans were deployed outside the building.

Shops and the market in the Nagpada locality immediately downed shutters to mourn the death.

Neighbours said Danish had a clean image but was known for his rash driving. A class-XII drop-out from Burhani College in Mazgaon, he had rented a few shops in Andheri and was in the transport business.

His father, Ibrahim Parkar, was shot down by gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli’s alleged associates, Shailesh Haldankar and Bipin Shere, on 26 July 1992. D-gang members opened fire on them in a hospital, where they were being treated after being almost lynched, and Haldankar and two police constables, Chintaman Jaiswal and Kewal Bhanawat, died.

Iqbal gets time out
A special MCOCA court on Thursday allowed Dawood Ibrahim’s youngest brother, Iqbal Kaskar, to attend the funeral of nephew Danish Parkar. Iqbal is lodged in the Arthur Road prison since his deportation from the United Arab Emirates in February 2003. He is facing charges in the Sara Sahara case after allegations that the Dawood gang was trying to enter Mumbai’s real-estate market with the help of a section of BMC officials.

8.30 am, Wednesday:
Danish Parkar leaves for Khed with five friends; spends the day there

4 am, Thursday:
Heads back for Mumbai in a Wagon-R (KN-01/AF-4035); he is driving
5.30 am-6 am: Car collides head-on with a truck (HR-55/B-6212) on Mahad Highway near Mangaon (about 125 km from Mumbai)

7 am: Cops reach spot, find Danish dead and oth ers severely hurt; taken to Mangaon Civil Hospital, where ‘murshid ‘ Shajauddin dies

Ibrahim Kaskar (Father)
The father of India’s most wanted used to be a head constable with the crime branch; he died in 1998
Mehjabeen (Mother) Dawood’s mother died in 2001

One of the accused in the 1993 serial blasts case, he is with brother Dawood in Karachi

The one man, whom India will love to get its hands on, is now in Pakistan; but he is not believed to be having a very good time with other countries, too, now turning the heat on the Musharraf regime

Daughter married in Pakistan

Is now in custody after being arrested in the Sara Sahara case

He is in Dubai and, like most of his brothers, is accused of conspiring to make the serial blasts happen

Is in Dubai running a shopping centre

Is in Dubai running a shopping centre

Married a Pakistani husband in the 1980s; is living there

Popularly known as Hasina Appa, she has four children (including Danish); eldest daughter Qudsiya is married into a well-to-do business family and two other children (Humaira) and (Alishaan) are students

The only adult male member of the D clan outside a prison in the city, Danish had a few outlets in an Andheri shopping mall and also ran a transport business. He was scheduled to surrender to the J J Marg police station on Thursday for a case involving Syed Asif Ali, a historysheeter himself; Ali had complained to the cops against Danish and the latter allegedly, with the help of his friends, cut off a portion of Ali’s tongue last week to teach him a lesson. Danish, often seen hanging around near Nagpada’s Mastan Dargah, had no other major case lodged against him and was fond of cars.

The other person who died with Danish was the murshad (priest) of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti’s dargah at Ajmer. He was taken to Khed by Danish, who felt having the “holy’’ man see his property would bring him luck.

Imran Khan
Doctors say this old Dawood crony Hanif Khan Muhatarram’s son is doing well; Imran ran a car-financing business but had a few minor cases against him.

The Times of India, April 28, 2006

Thursday, April 27, 2006

‘IIT’ crooks still on the run

The accused G V Ravikumar and others not only allegedly duped 173 students of Rs 45 lakh, but also ran up a bill of Rs 7 lakh for the office they used in Mumbai. Not a single student has received the promised certificates till date

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Officers of the educational unit of the economic offences wing will be leaving for Kolkata again to arrest two directors of Big Leap Pvt Ltd, an educational institution, that allegedly duped 173 students of about Rs 45 lakh. A team visited Kolkata last month but could not trace them.

The company said it was affiliated to IIT-Kharagpur and promised students certificates from the IIT that would help them land jobs abroad or with multi-national companies. Not a single student, however, has received the certificate till date.

The case dates back from 2003 but senior officials want the case to be investigated again.

Investigating officer Ramesh Gavit said officials were looking for six persons involved in the this racket.

“Big Leap managing director Sachidand Rai and director G V Ravikumar and four others started an educational institution, the Druhanacharya Academy Pvt Ltd, in 1996 and later changed its name twice, to EL-NET in 1997 and Big Leap in 2000. They advertised in the newspapers that they were running several certificate courses in computers and were affliated to IIT-Kharagpur. Over 500 students appeared for the entrance ex
amination, out of which 173 were selected; they had to pay upwards of Rs 10,000,’’ Gavit said. The institute had its offices in Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and were also planning to set up another in Bangladesh. All offices of Big Leap were now shut, officials said.

The two directors of Big Leap, both residents of Kolkata, hired four offices at Andheri, Chembur, Dadar and Marine Lines in Mumbai. They trained students for the three-month course and told them the question papers were prepared by IIT-Kharagpur teachers.

The examination was initially slated for November 2001 but was postponed to February 2002. Students were told to collect the certificates from the office but they never even got to know how they fared in the exam.

Big Leap’s Andheri office shut down soon after and the directors fled from the city. When students contacted IIT-Kharagpur, they were told the MoU between Big
Leap and II-Kharagpur was not renewed. But they were assured that IIT-Kharagpur would issue the certificates if the directors came down to the campus and asked.

“Our department contacted the then IIT-Kharagpur dean and we came to know that a certain Panigrahi had collected all the certificates on behalf of the directors on 13 October 2003. But students are still waiting for the certificates,’’ Gavit added.

The accused did not only dupe the students. They also ran up a bill of Rs 7 lakh for the office they used in Mumbai but did not pay the landlord.

Sumerchand Surana, a chartered accountant by profession who gave his Marine Lines office on rent to Big Leap, filed a petition in the City Civil Court.

Another victim, Manish Dohi, who gave his Andheri office and 25 computers on rent, was also duped, officials added.

The Times of India, April 27, 2006

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Gun licence application was rejected at first


Mateen Hafeez and S Ahmed Ali| TNN

Mumbai: Police are probing how Pravin Mahajan, who shot his older brother, BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan, procured a gun licence even after his application for a licence was initially rejected in 1996 by the Thane police commissioner.

Said a police officer, “We are investigating how Pravin procured a gun licence despite his application being rejected at first. We have learnt that he had given no reason for wanting a licence.’’

Police sources said that Pravin had not fulfilled the basic requirements for procuring a gun licence and therefore his application was rejected. However, he approached a top politician in the Sena-BJP, who is related to him, who reportedly
cleared the application, the police sources said.

Pravin had bought the .32 Browning pistol from an arms dealer’s shop at Zaveri Bazaar in south Mumbai. He did not buy the pistol from seized government stock.

He had earlier told investigators that he had bought the pistol for Rs 50,000, but on Monday police verified that
the pistol was bought for Rs 1.2 lakh. His Maruti Swift was bought from a showroom in Thane in 2005, but the source of his funds is yet to be established, police said.

The Worli police interrogated Pravin for several hours over why he procured a gun licence from the Thane police. “He told us that there was no
threat to his life, but he wanted to keep a weapon and applied for the licence,’’ an IPS officer who is heading the attempt-to-murder investigation told TOI on Monday. Police officers indicated that Pravin might have kept the gun only for “status’’.

An arms licence is issued for target shooting, self protection, bank guardsand so on. Weapons seized by police are also offered to applicants who want to buy one. An arms licence is cancelled for “unauthorised use’’ or if the holder is involved in crime. The police have written to their counterparts in Thane to cancel Pravin’s licence. “Pravin’s pistol was small, with low power. He used jacketed bullets that are mostly used in hunting.

Pravin fired three rounds at his brother at a distance of less than six feet.

The Times of India, April 25, 2006

Gun licence application was rejected at first


Mateen Hafeez and S Ahmed Ali| TNN

Mumbai: Police are probing how Pravin Mahajan, who shot his older brother, BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan, procured a gun licence even after his application for a licence was initially rejected in 1996 by the Thane police commissioner.

Said a police officer, “We are investigating how Pravin procured a gun licence despite his application being rejected at first. We have learnt that he had given no reason for wanting a licence.’’

Police sources said that Pravin had not fulfilled the basic requirements for procuring a gun licence and therefore his application was rejected. However, he approached a top politician in the Sena-BJP, who is related to him, who reportedly
cleared the application, the police sources said.

Pravin had bought the .32 Browning pistol from an arms dealer’s shop at Zaveri Bazaar in south Mumbai. He did not buy the pistol from seized government stock.

He had earlier told investigators that he had bought the pistol for Rs 50,000, but on Monday police verified that
the pistol was bought for Rs 1.2 lakh. His Maruti Swift was bought from a showroom in Thane in 2005, but the source of his funds is yet to be established, police said.

The Worli police interrogated Pravin for several hours over why he procured a gun licence from the Thane police. “He told us that there was no
threat to his life, but he wanted to keep a weapon and applied for the licence,’’ an IPS officer who is heading the attempt-to-murder investigation told TOI on Monday. Police officers indicated that Pravin might have kept the gun only for “status’’.

An arms licence is issued for target shooting, self protection, bank guardsand so on. Weapons seized by police are also offered to applicants who want to buy one. An arms licence is cancelled for “unauthorised use’’ or if the holder is involved in crime. The police have written to their counterparts in Thane to cancel Pravin’s licence. “Pravin’s pistol was small, with low power. He used jacketed bullets that are mostly used in hunting.

Pravin fired three rounds at his brother at a distance of less than six feet.

The Times of India, April 25, 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006

Cops probe gambling angle in shooting

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: Police are probing whether Pravin Mahajan, who shot his elder brother—BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan—on Saturday, squandered his money in gambling.

The police believe that Pravin had Rs 6-8 lakh till last year and are investigating whether he had squandered the money and was pestering his elder brother for more. A senior police officer said Pravin had received the money from his politician brother. “We are exploring the gambling angle because we do not want to take a chance in this high-profile case. We are trying to find out where Pravin’s earnings have gone. We are not buying his story and are carrying out a detailed investigation,’’ he said.

“Pravin bought a Belgian second-hand pistol for Rs 50,000 in 1999 and also owns a Maruti Swift. He is yet to explain the source of money for these purchases,’’ said an officer. The police are also probing whether the seized pistol was used for the attack. “We do not want to take any chances. Sometime the accused changes the weapon after committing an offence which contradicts the ballistic report,’’ an officer said.

The police on Sunday grilled Pravin on the ‘threat perception’ following which he procured a gun licence. While
Pravin’s family claimed that he was mentally disturbed, the police questioned the logic behind allowing such a man to possess a weapon. “If his mental condition was not stable, his family members should have returned the pistol,’’ they said.

Pravin had fired three rounds at Mahajan on Saturday morning at a close range of five to six feet. The police found three empty bullets in Mahajan’s flat and three live cartridges were recovered from the pistol.

While Pravin told the police on Saturday that no one will fight his case, advocate Nandkumar Rajurkar reached Worli police station and took his brief even before his formal arrest.

The police suspect that the entire operation was planned methodically. “He shoots his brother, walks into the police station to surrender and then his lawyer comes to the police station arguing that his client is mentally unstable,’’ an officer said.

The Times of India, April 24, 2006

Friday, April 21, 2006

‘Builder’ held for duping banks

Vasant More

Made A Fortune Of Rs 1.65 Cr By Swindling Unsuspecting Home-Buyers As Well

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: Vasant Vaman More took a slightly complicated route to swindle home-buyers and city branches of leading banks of Rs 1.65 crore but the law caught up with him when he was arrested from his Pune residence last week.

More, wanted for the last three years for alleged involvement in several cases, was sent to police custody till April 24.

A civil draftsman by profession, More claimed to have constructed at least 10 buildings in the city. Based on his claims, the loans of 30 home-buyers were sanctioned by banks and the pay-orders were deposited in his account. Officials said he had started constructing only one building in Ghatkopar.

Investigating officer Neela
Udaseen said More approached the builders of a Mira Road project (called Avani Constructions), signed an MoU for buying 15 flats and gave them four cheques worth Rs 35 lakh.

Three cheques were honoured but the fourth bounced, prompting the builders to tell him that they could hand over the ownership rights of only three flats to him as the other cheques bounced.

But More kept a copy of the original MoU; there, he changed the name of Avani Construc
tions to Dharti Constructions and prepared 15 fake agreements. He then approached 15 people, seeking to buy homes, and convinced them into dealing with him as he could give them homes cheap. “The home-buyers then visited the Avani Constructions site which More said was his property. They believed him as there was no signboard,’’ Udaseen said.

More then instructed them to approach the State Bank of Mysore (Khar branch) for loans. The bank sanctioned the loans and pay-orders worth Rs 94.34 lakh were issued in More’s name.

Bank officials realised they had been taken for a ride only after no one repaid the loans. Manager
Patrik Oswal Pinto lodged a complaint with the police.

A probe revealed More never gave a flat to any one but gave them sums between Rs 5,000 and Rs
10,000 and a gold chain each as “gifts’’. Bank officials told police that they came to know about the fraud only after they made inquiries.

More used the same route to cheat the State Bank of Mysore (Lokhandwala branch) of Rs 52 lakh. He sent eight home loanseekers to the bank and pay-orders were deposited to his account.

The Samata Nagar police station registered a case against More in 2003 when he sent home loan-seekers to the Kandivli (E) branch of Dena Bank and pay-orders were deposited in his account.

The bank asked him to return the money after realising his claims were false. More, however, had encashed pay-orders of Rs 18.75 lakh by then. But he returned the amount after a court order.

The Times of India, April 21, 2006

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Security for Salem leads to space jam

ARTHUR ROAD JAIL ANDA CELL Usually every cell has one inmate,but with a yard set aside for Salem, all the cells are now packed


Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: The arrival of extradited gangster Abu Salem at Arthur Road jail has created a space jam for other undertrials.

The inmates of the infamous anda cells are up in arms because of the overcrowding after one of the sections was cleared out to house Salem in virtual isolation. Yard number four of the cell was vacated to accommodate Salem, and as a result, the other three yards
have become overcrowded.

According to one inmate of the anda cells (so named because of their shape), yard number one has six small cells, while the second and third have nine cells each, and the fourth has seven. “Before Salem’s arrival, around 20 inmates lived in yard number four. And the other three were already overcrowded,’’ he said.

The inmates lodged in yard four were then shifted to the other yards and the entire section vacated for Salem keeping in mind the fact that he was potentially a high-value target and needed more security. Currently, the don’s only companion in an adjacent cell is
Manzoor Ahmed, another bomb blast accused who allegedly supplied AK-56 rifles to actor Sanjay Dutt.

“Generally only one accused is kept in one cell but since yard number four has been vacated for Salem, at least three inmates have been pushed into each cell. The layout is such that it is difficult for two inmates to share a cell and now there are three in each,’’ an undertrial said.

His feelings were echoed by a bomb blast accused
housed in the same prison. He said: “It is becoming intolerable. The authorities have not bothered to check the situation inside the jail.’’

Arthur Road jail was meant to house 804 inmates, but with jail infrastructure not keeping pace with the needs of the criminal justice system, it is presently home to 2,900 undertrials. While admitting that the jail is overcrowded, deputy inspector general of police (prison), south region, S P Yadav, said, “The jail has more inmates than capacity. The Taloja jail is under construction and once it is operational, most of the inmates will be transferred there.’’

The Times of India, April 19, 2006

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Key witness seeks cover from police


By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: Here’s another classic instance of the police hounding a prime witness in a case to such an extent that the man in question is complaining of dwindling income.

Taxi driver Mohammed Zakariya (26) was the only witness in the kidnapping of a Tata Electric executive at Haji Ali last month. The executive, Suman Salil Sinna (38), had got into Zakariya’s taxi on March 27 at Churchgate to go to Worli. On the way, three persons forcibly entered the cab and ordered Zakariya to drive to Sinna’s Marine Drive residence. On reaching there, the accused asked Sinna to call up his wife and get his ATM
card. The accused then asked Zakariya to drive to L a m i n g t o n Road where they withdrew Rs 15,000 from an ICICI ATM centre. The trio also took away Sinna’s gold rings worth Rs 37,000.
For Zakariya, trouble began immediately after the incident. Zakariya, who drives a rented taxi, began to be
routinely summoned by the Tardeo police to identify suspects. “They take me to different places to identify people. I am so hassled that I find it difficult to concentrate on my work. Sometimes the police call me in the morning and at times at night,’’ he said.

Zakariya, who is originally from Uttar Pradesh, came to Mumbai 10 years ago and worked as a barber. Later, he learned driving and got a rented taxi, for which he pays Rs 200 per day to the owner.

Unless he drives every day for a certain number of hours, it’s difficult for Zakariya to earn any money. But now, he is required at the Tardeo police station every day. “I have been unable to sleep properly since this happened. When I am not driving, I spend my time roaming around Haji Ali, Crossroads and Lamington Road along with the policemen. I just hope that the accused gets arrested because I can’t take this any more,’’ he added.

Santosh Rastogi, the zonal DCP, said the police needed Zakariya’s presence to identify the culprits. “I do understand his problems. But we are trying our best to arrest the accused and Zakariya is the sole witness who can help us,’’ he said.

The Times of India, April 18, 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006

‘Kurla accused wanted to avenge jail humiliation’

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: Investigations have revealed that Virar resident Mushiruddin Siddiqui (37), who was arrested in January this year, wanted to avenge the alleged torture in custody by the crime branch in 2003. He was then interrogated by the Ghatkopar and Andheri crime branch units following bomb blasts in the areas in 2003.

Siddiqui and Manzoor Ansari (28), a Nepalese national, was arrested on January 30 outside the Kurla terminus for carrying arms and ammunition. He told anti-terrorism squad (ATS) officers that he was humiliated and tortured by the crime branch sleuths. “He wanted to use the gun powder and revolvers to attack the policemen. However, we seized them before he could implement his plan,’’ said an officer.

Siddiqui was called for questioning for four consecutive days after several blasts in the city in 2003. However, he was not arrest
ed since the police didn’t have sufficient evidence against him. “He was questioned about the suspects in the 2003 blasts but he could not give concrete information and was let off. However, he felt humiliated by the crime branch sleuths and planned to retaliate,’’ said an ATS officer.

The ATS had seized 950 grams of gray explosive powder, a sixchamber .38 bore revolver, a .315 bore country-made revolver, six live cartridges, political maps of Mumbai, Maharashtra and Manali from Siddiqui and Ansari. They were booked under sections 4 and 5 of the Indian Explosives Act, 1908, and sections 16 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, amended in 2004.

The ATS has got the report on the explosives from the forensic science laboratory. But the officers refused to comment on it.

Siddiqui has allegedly told investigators that he would retaliate at any cost. “He told the police that if he died, his mission will continue since he had
trained a few persons in Uttar Pradesh who will execute his plan,’’ sources said. A police team had gone to Uttar Pradesh to hunt the other accused, but they managed to escape.

The police said Siddiqui had been trained by militants in Karachi in March 2003. Siddiqui, along with one Mohammed, had left Mumbai on March 12, 2003, and reached Dubai. The next day there was a blast in a local train at Mulund that claimed the lives of 11 people and injured 52 others. On March 14, Siddiqui and Mohammed arrived at Karachi airport and were taken to a village, 70 km from the airport, in a closed vehicle.

The police added that Siddiqui underwent a 22-day training which included use of firearms and bomb making. Later, the duo returned from Karachi to Kathmandu en route Dubai. After reaching Kathmandu, they burnt their passports to destroy proof of their visit to Pakistan and came to Uttar Pradesh by road.

The Times of India, April 15, 2006

Reams of red tape to cut before the dance

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: They may have won the high court battle, but bar owners and employees have a long way ahead before they can do the victory dance. The lifting of the ban means little until and unless they have acquired all the 46 licences.

It starts with a registration certificate (RC) for an eatery which is issued by a divisional assistant commissioner of police, and the Police Public Entertainment Licence (PPEL), again issued by the police.

But getting them is easier said than done. For instance, until the dance bar applicant gets an NOC from the commercial or residential complex where it would be located, a PPEL will not be issued.

“The rule of furnishing a no-objection certificate (NOC) has been there since a long time but now it will be more strict. For example, a residential housing society or building where a new dance bar starts, has to submit an NOC saying they do not have any problem if the establishment (dance bar) is run in their building or nearby. If the police get any complaints from the residential society or building, the dance bar licence could be cancelled,’’ said a senior officer.

Then comes the Shops and Establishment Licence issued by the
BMC, for which applications have to be made in local ward offices. While existing bars may have some permissions already, for those bars starting from scratch the other permissions needed include those for serving liquor on the premises—a Foreign Liquor Licence number 3 (FL3) and a beer bar permit to serve beer, Foreign Liquor Licence number 4 (FL4). Both licences are issued by the excise department.

A Premises Licence (PL) too is needed to conduct amusement activities on the premises. This is issued by the commissioner of police’s office. And finally, at the end of the long corridors of babudom, there is the Performance Licence issued by the local assistant commissioner of police. This can be obtained for periods ranging from one day to one year.

The Times of India, April 15, 2006

Friday, April 14, 2006

‘Key witness is a wanted man’


By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: Defence advocates in the high-profile Sara Sahara case are now casting doubts on a key witness, who is also testifying against Abu Salem in various murder cases. Defence lawyers say his credentials are dubious and that he is being used as an independent witness although he’s himself wanted in two criminal cases.

The witness, Arif Lakdawala, has been deposing in a special MCOCA court over alleged violations in the development of the Sara Sahara shopping complex. The project allegedly involved large investments by the underworld in real estate. Lakdawala, who revealed details of several transactions in the property, has told the
court that he knew Salem personally and stayed at the latter’s residence in Dubai for over five months.

Speaking about his links with the gangster, Lakdawala said, “I had collect
ed Rs 25 lakh from Nadeem and Ramesh Taurani. The amount was collected in order to pay Salem. It was an illegal transaction.’’ He said music baron Gulshan Kumar was murdered soon afterwards.

Defence lawyers in the Sara Sahara case are using this very fact of his involvement in various criminal
cases to d i s c re d i t his testimony. Lakd aw a l a ’s statement has been recorded by the crime branch and the antiterrorism squad (ATS) in cases such as the murders of Gulshan Kumar, builder Pradeep Jain, actor Manisha Koirala’s secretary Ajit Dewani and cases relating to the Bollywood-underworld nexus.

Lakdawala was last crossexamined on Wednesday by advocate Shrikant Shivade. He said, “I have known Salem since 1988-89. I have spoken to him over the
phone...My statement was recorded by the police in the Gulshan Kumar murder case and I appeared as witness in that case. One K K Balsara was also questioned in this case. Balsara died in the bathroom of the crime branch office. Balsara and I collected Rs 25 lakh from Juhu. That money was collected from Nadeem Saifee (the music compos-er).’’

Lak- dawala during the
cross examination said, “I had no business or work permit in Dubai. I went as a tourist. I met Salem during my stay. I resided in his house for 4-5 months. Salem made arrangements for my visa and accommodation in Dubai. I used to meet Salem daily at that time. The Gulshan Kumar case happened after I returned from Dubai.’’

Prosecution lawyers have seized on his remarks, saying it provides clinch
ing evidence of wrongdoing in the Sara Sahara transaction. However, defence advocate Waris Pathan, who is appearing for five of the accused, sought to draw attention towards cases in which Lakdawala is himself wanted—such as a murder case in Gamdevi which is pending in court and another relating to extortion and criminal intimidation at Agripada—to show that the witness cannot be relied upon.

“It is the duty of the police to arrest Lakadawala considering the nature of the evidence given by him in earlier cases and his association with Salem. It is learnt police are also in possession of the conversations and no action un
der MCOCA has been initiated against him,’’ Pathan said.

When contacted, the crime branch seemed clueless about the cases in which Lakdawala is wanted. “I don’t know about it,’’ said DCP D D Kamlakar.

The Times of India, April 14, 2006

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Probes into custody deaths acquit Mumbai police

By Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The crime branch has begun investigating the recent death of an accountant accused of theft in the Agripada police lock-up. The family of Premnath Rao is hoping the inquiry will throw more light on the circumstances leading to his alleged suicide. But going by similar inquiries conducted in the last five years, the findings are unlikely to contradict what the police have to say.

Inquiries into 15 custodial deaths since 2001 have attributed the cause to either “natural factors’’ or suicide. Not a single case was seen as the result of “torture in custody.’’ In four cas
es, the crime branch is yet to table its findings.

The statistics fly in the face of consensus among lawyers and activists who claim most custody deaths are a result of torture. Said criminal lawyer Majeed Memon: “Deaths in custody are mainly due to third degree torture. In the words of the supreme court, custodial death in a civil society is perhaps the worst crime.’’

However, DCP D D Kamalakar, who heads investigations at crime branch, insisted all probes were conducted in an impartial manner. “Investigations into four custodial death cases are currently on. In the last 15 cases, there was not a single death by torture.’’

Custodial deaths can be categorised into three types: suicidal, homicidal and natural. As a procedure, whenever an accused commits suicide in a police station, an inquiry is initiated. The local police station then has to send a preliminary report to the National Human Rights Commission.

It is alleged that often doctors in charge of government hospitals are hand-in-glove with police officers. “Medical reports are prepared as per policemen’s instructions and that is why it is difficult to establish the genuine cause of death,’’ said hospital sources. This despite the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.

Rao (38) for instance, was found hanging in a bathroom outside the Agripada lock-up on April 6. The family termed it a result of ‘third degree torture’ and the first post-mortem showed signs of internal bleeding and injuries to his limbs. The high court then ordered a second postmortem which was conducted on Tuesday.

The body of a petty thief, Shivkumar Jaiswal alias Shakal (27), was found in a drum containing 300 litres of water within the Mahim police station premises on December 1, 2005. While the police termed it suicide, the dead man’s relatives claimed he was killed. “He was tortured to death. Is it
possible for a mentally fit person to sit in a water drum to die?’’ Shakal’s mother asked TOI. A crucial forensic report in the case was still awaited.

Bomb blast accused Khwaja Yunus’s death is the other notorious example of alleged police brutality. Yunus’ friend Dr Mateen told a special court that Yunus died because of torture. But the police maintained Yunus had escaped from custody, although he was never traced. A state CID inquiry eventually concluded that Yunus was killed in custody. The CID arrested eight police officers and the trial is still on. The officers were, however, given bail.

The Times of India, April 13, 2006

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cops to install CCTVs in lock-ups


By Mateen Hafeez Times News Network

Mumbai: Had there been a closed circuit television (CCTV) in Agripada lock-up, accountant Premanth Rao may have been alive today.

Police said Rao, accused of theft by his employer, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself in the toilet. His family, however, insist that he died of torture.
Sources said the CCTV could have helped investigators find out the truth behind Rao’s death.

The lock-ups in some police stations such as LT Marg police station, DB Marg police station and Nagpada have CCTVs to help
the police keep an eye on the accused.

However, most criminals arrested for serious offences are kept in central lock-ups—16 in number—and none one of them have CCTVs. “We plan to install CCTVs in all the central lock-ups and it will be implemented soon,’’ said joint commissioner of police
(law and order) Arup Patnaik.

When Rao allegedly committed suicide, two policemen from Agripada—constable Salahuddin Sayyed and
assistant sub-inspector Pandurang Gaikwad—along with a constable of the local arms unit were present in the lock-up.

The trio, along with sub-inspector Pramod Pawar of the NM Joshi Marg police, has been suspended.

The Times of India, April 10, 2006

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Dawood loyalist joins Rajan gang

Ejaz Pathan

Calls Made By Jailed Gangster D K Rao To Mentor Reveal Ejaz Pathan’s Shift

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: Ejaz Pathan, an accused in the 1993 blasts case and a former driver of Tiger Memon, has joined the Chhota Rajan gang with the help of jailed gangster D K Rao. The switch has been confirmed after Rao’s telephonic conversations with mentor Rajan were recorded by the crime intelligence unit a few months ago.

The conversations, recorded in November last year, indicate the shifting of loyalties after relations between various D-gang members came under strain. Rao had asked Pathan to join hands with him, soon after he learnt about a rift between Pathan and co-accused Saleem Shaikh alias Saleem Kutta, an old member of the Dawood gang. They had fought in the jail last year and Pathan had blamed Kutta and the other accused of im
plicating him in the blasts conspiracy and causing his deportation.

Pathan, who was prime accused Tiger Memon’s bodyguard and driver, was deported from the UAE on February 19, 2003 along with don Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Iqbal
Kaskar. The conversations between Rao and Rajan regarding Pathan switching over had lasted for about 15 minutes. “Nana, Ajju hamare saath kaam karna chahta hai (Ajju wants to work with us). Aapko yaad hai kya Ajju kaun hai. Woh aapse Dubai mein mila tha, woh green safari pehene huye tha
(Do you remember him. He met you in Dubai and was wearing a green safari suit).’’ Rao’s boss, however, could not recall meeting ‘Ajju’. Rao then continued: “Mein Ejaz Pathan ke baare mein baath kar raha hoon, jisne ek baar aapko tip bhi diya tha

(I am talking about Ejaz Pathan, he had once given you a tip-off)...Usse gang mein mazaa nahi aa raha hai
(He is unhappy with the Dawood gang).’’

Rajan then instructed Rao that Pathan should be given “special’’
treatment and attention. Rao was also asked to support Pathan legally and financially. A crime branch officer said he was not surprised with Pathan shifting loyalties since there were reports of differences within the Dgang. In the past, many D- gang members have had similar problems with Dawood’s righthand man, Chhota Shakeel, who is known to often treat people in a shabby manner.

DCP D D Kamalakar said, “The matter is subjudice, so I don’t want to say anything about it,’’ he said.

Various transcripts of Rao’s conversations with Rajan have been doing the rounds. In one of them, Rao was heard referring to minister of state for home Siddharam Mhetre. However, the minister had denied all links with the gangster.

Pathan’s entry into the Rajan gang may affect the D-gang as he was in the company of Memon and others for over 10 years and knew some of their secrets. Pathan, a labourer from Dongri, was hired by the prime conspirator of the ‘93 blasts, Tiger Memon, as a bodyguard-cum-driver in 1992. Pathan was present for all the meetings at which Memon plotted the blasts.

After Mumbai was rocked by a series of bomb blasts, Pathan was named in the chargesheet as one of the accused who transported explosives and sophisticated weapons from Dighi beach in Raigad district on Feb 7, 1993.

The Times of India, April 6, 2006

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Dalmiya was willing to return funds: Cops

Jagmohan Dalmiya

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: Former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya, who is accused of misappropriation of funds, was willing to return Rs 21.74 lakh to the cricket board before an official FIR was registered against him, an officer from the economic offences wing (EOW) has revealed.

The source, on condition of anonymity, said, “Dalmiya told the police that he
was willing to return Rs 21.74 lakh to the board, if the BCCI agreed to return the money he (Dalmiya) had invested for the benefit of the cricket board.’’ But Dalmiya had refused to reveal the amount he had claimed to have spent out of his personal funds, police sources said.

BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah had filed an FIR with Marine Drive police against
Dalmiya, former board secretaries S K Nair, Jyoti Bajpai and former treasurer Kishore Rungta, accusing them of criminal breach of trust, cheating and misappropriation of the board’s funds. Since then, Dalmiya and the other three have been questioned on four occasions.

The police are yet to verify Dalmiya’s statement that he wanted to return Rs 21.74 lakh. “The police have not verified this with the board authorities. Anyway, we are probing the case based on
an FIR of misappropriation of funds, and therefore we would not like to go into all these details,’’ an officer said.

According to sources, a police team was scheduled to leave for Kolkata on Sunday for further investigation, but the trip was postponed for two days since the paper work was not complete.

“There is a delay. However, a police team will be leaving soon since the investigators have to scrutinise the papers and verify the facts given by the
four persons in their statements,’’ said an officer.

The police team will check the bank transactions and statements of a bank account (number 1223) in the Indian Overseas Bank. “The transactions from this account to the personal account of Dalmiya or others, if any, will also be verified,’’ the police said.

The policemen are expected to meet the officials of the Board’s
audit firm—Billimoria Chartered Accountants—to verify the financial transactions shown by Dalmiya.

The police have already told the Bombay high court that the misappropriated amount was much bigger than the Rs 21.74 lakh mentioned in the complaint. They have said they are in the process of investigating a funds trail stretching across various cities.

Dalmiya has been granted interim relief against arrest till April 10 by the high court in Mumbai.

The Times of India, April 4, 2006

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Dalmiya case investigation to continue in Kolkata

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: Even after a five-hour long questioning session, the Economic Offences Wing officers were unable to gather why former cricket Board president Jagmohan Dalmiya made his personal secretary Kishan Choudhary as one of the authorised signatories to sign cheques.

Dalmiya, former Board secretaries S K Nair and Jyoti Bajpai, and former treasurer Kishore Rungta came to the crime branch on Friday morning for the fourth time this week.

Investigating officer, Sudhir Mahadik said, “We will be leaving for Kolkata
on Sunday where we will meet the Indian Overseas Bank officials and will corroborate the facts given in the statements by Dalmiya and others. We also want justification from Choudhary’’. Police sources said that the investigators were not convinced with Dalmiya’s replies. Moreover, the police are yet to verify several documents in connection with the misappropriation of funds of Rs 21.74 lakh.

The cops are expected to meet the officials of the Bilimoria Chartered Accountancy, the audit firm of the BCCI, to clarify and corroborate Dalmiya’s statement.

The Times of India, April 1, 2006

Malegaon will have police museum soon

By Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Malegaon: This textile hub will soon be the first taluka in the state to have a police museum for itself.

Officials feel the museum will preserve items of historical interest and also project the police as a citizen-friendly force. The project, initiated by additional SP Anil Kumbhare, is part of a modernisation plan for the force. The museum is ready to be inaugurated by director-general of police P S Pasricha on 3 April.

Going around the museum will also be an educative experience. It will give visitors an idea of traffic rules, safety measures for senior citizens (through sketches and cartoons) and have an advisory of how to prevent crime. But getting pride of place will be a letter written by Mahatma Gandhi on 23 March 1910 to then Mumbai police chief Griffith.

“The memorabilia include evolution of the traffic system and details of the introduction of a uniform for the force, the first police patrolling (on bicyles), the first highway accident in the world, the installation of the first traffic signal, the first registered accidental death in the country besides crime statistics,’’ Kumbhare said.

The museum will be at the City Police Station that also houses police quarters, a new mess and the additional SP’s office. “We have also obtained some sketches and will have statues that show figures in uniform, including that of the kotwal in Punjab (from 1861), the ceremonial uniform of the police (1873), armed police uniforms in Manipur and MP
etc,’’ Kumbhare said.

Citizens can come and interact with officials. A group is now being trained to explain the collections to vistiors.

The Times of India, April 1, 2006