Asgharali Manaswala (47)
Suspect Owns Spare Parts Shop In Mumbai
Nitasha Natu and Mateen Hafeez | TNN Mumbai: An automobile spare parts shopowner from Chor Bazaar was arrested on Monday in connection with the supply of six tonnes of ball bearings—used to make explosives—for the banned militant outfit, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Asgharali Manaswala (47) is the second person to be arrested from Mumbai in this case. He has been booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Explosives Act. The police produced him before a holiday court on Tuesday and sought a transit remand to take him to Chennai.
The case had come to light on Saturday when Mirajsaheb Ismail, a tea vendor from Goregaon, was arrested by Oshiwara police for facilitating procurement of the ball bearings, in three consignments of two tonnes each, for a Tamil Nadu-based group of people. Ismail was questioned by the ‘Q’ branch of Chennai police and he led them to Mausawala.
“The men visiting Ismail from Tamil Nadu wanted to purchase ball bearings at the lowest possible rates. Ismail first took them to an Andheri dealer who refused to sell the bearings saying he had a franchisee in Chennai whom they could approach,’’ said a senior official. “Ismail then accompanied the men to Chor Bazaar where they purchased the ball bearings from Manaswala’s shop in three consignments of two tonnes each.’’
Manaswala’s wife, Shirin, told TOI that her husband was taken away by the police on Monday afternoon. She said his involvement was merely to the extent of selling material which the men sought to purchase and he had no knowledge about their antecedents. “Our shop is half-a-century old. Ismail, along with two others, had come to Chor Bazaar and went to a neighbouring shop, before coming to my husband’s shop. We generally give a bill for all the purchases, but in many cases the customers don’t take bills in order to avoid the 12.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT),’’ Shirin said.
She added that in this case too, the men placed the order but did not \want a bill. The quantity of ball bearings required was so large that Manaswala had to procure part of the consignment from elsewhere to execute the order. “A businessman always thinks about profit and we don’t keep a record of all the customers, nor do we ask them what they intend to do with the consignment. If some alleged LTTE member bought it from our shop, how is it my cousin’s fault?’’ said Shabbir Pardawala, a relative.
A resident of Buniyan building at Mazgaon, Manaswala stayed there with his wife and two children. “The order was executed in 10 days. Ismail told us that the consignment was to be sent to Chennai through a transport agency. The two other men with him were speaking Tamil and it was difficult to interact with them. Ismail acted as interpreter between us,’’ another cousin of Manaswala said.
The Chennai police have been trying to track down all the people and places visited by the Tamil group after they reached Mumbai. Cops suspect Manaswala and Ismail of providing ‘local support’ for the LTTE. Eight men, including five Sri Lankan refugees, were arrested by the ‘Q’ branch police earlier this month while transporting two tonnes of ball bearings (bought in Mumbai) from Chennai to Toothukudi. The consignment was to leave Toothukudi in southern Tamil Nadu for Sri Lanka.
According to police sources, the consignment of ball bearings from Mumbai was likely to land at Mallathivu in northeast Sri Lanka. Consignments taken across the Palk Strait could be offloaded to smaller boats anchored off the coast of Mallathivu and ferried to LTTEcontrolled areas.
The Times of India, January 31, 2007