Sunday, July 31, 2011

SpeakAsia fraud could be over 8,000 cr: Investors


Firm's COO Tarak Bajpai

With Nearly 20 Lakh Members, Many Of Whom Have Invested Lakhs Of Rupees, Scam Could Be Bigger Than Initially Thought



Mateen Hafeez TNN

Mumbai: The Singapore-registered company SpeakAsia may have allegedly committed fraud that could touch Rs 8,000 crore, said angry investors, including Navneet Khosla, who had registered a complaint against the company with the Mumbai police. He has accused SpeakAsia of cheating him of Rs 2.4 lakh.

While investigators have refused to comment on this high figure saying they are still examining the firm’s accounts, investors say that many of them have put in lakhs into SpeakAsia. Sources say the company has ‘recruited’ 20 lakh investors across the country, but its website pegs the number at 19 lakh. Even Andheri resident Rajmani Shukla claimed the alleged fraud could touch Rs 10,000 crore in his PIL in the Bombay high court. On Friday, the Mumbai police had pegged the fraud at Rs 1,320 crore.


Meanwhile, the economic offences wing (EOW) of the Mumbai police, which is investigating the firm, arrested a fifth person, Deepankar Sarkar— an active promoter-—from Raipur on Saturday. He has been remanded in police custody till August 4. “Sarkar was one of the company’s first promoters and as of January 2011 had earned Rs 35 lakh
through returns. When Speak-Asia introduced its scheme in February 2010, there were just 100 panellists,” said Khosla. Acting on Kholsa’s complaint and its own investigations, the EOW on Friday, arrested four senior executives of the firm in Indore, including COO Tarak Bajpai. SpeakAsia has also been accused of transferring Rs 700 crore to Singapore.

On May 11, SpeakAsia had allegedly charged 1,200 ‘panellists’ Rs 1 lakh to participate in a shopping festival. According to investors, the promoters had promised them “heavy discounts” on their purchases. Around the same time, the company came under the radar of the CID, I-T department and Enforcement Directorate, and its accounts were blocked.

The firm has no office in India, and functions through its internet portal. Investors enrol to become panellists for Rs 11,000, after which they get to fill two survey forms a week and earn Rs 1,000. It functions on a ‘point-based’ system, and panellists—as investors are called—are entitled to 10 points (Rs 500) for every survey.


Investors are urged to recruit people and are awarded points equivalent to Rs 1,000 for every new member. Police say the firm told investors they could cash in their points, but when many tried to do so, they came back empty-handed.



Firm says it’s awaiting govt clearance
F ollowing the arrest of five SpeakAsia officials, the
company posted a message online, saying
that the CEO, Manoj Kumar—who the police believe is hiding in Dubai—would address investors through YouTube on Saturday evening. However, even at the time of going to press, no such broadcast was made and repeated calls to the firm’s PR officials went unanswered. The company, however, on its website assured its clients that an application for setting up a permanent establishment in India had been filed and government clearance was awaited. Further, the company stated that over the last fortnight, it had made a few test paymentsbut the amounts were not credited by the banks as RBI had issued precautionary circulars. The company’s COO Tarak Bajpai (in pic) along with other executives are in police custody. TNN


PIL on firm helped investors’ cause

Rebecca Samervel TNN

Mumbai: An in-chamber hearing in which a division bench of the Bombay High Court expressed concerns over the spate of economic offences in Mumbai may have prompted the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) to file an FIR in the alleged scam involving the online surveying company Speak-Asia. Five officials including COO Tarak Bajpai have been arrested and remanded to police custody till August 4.

“Offenders are luring victims by making extensive use of the internet to float attractive websites of bogus companies,” said a division bench of Justices Ranjana Desai and R V More after meeting EOW commissioner on July 17.


The commissioner had been summoned in lieu of a PIL filed by Andheri resident Rajmani Shukla (60) through advocate Vinod
Chate in June. Shukla had contended that SpeakAsia had defrauded more than 50 lakh people to the tune of several thousand crores. He urged the court to direct the state to carry out investigations and take suitable action. Shukla said that in his capacity as a social worker, he had approached the policeafter he came to know about the scam. The police, he said, told him that as he was not an investor they could not take action against SpeakAsia.

The court directed EOW to file an affidavit indicating its plans to prevent people from being lured by internet offences. The matter will now be heard on August 3 along with an intervention application filed by Speak-Asia seeking to be made a party in the PIL. The court asked EOW to consider whether there should be a separate body to keep a vigil on the internet.



‘SpeakAsia has yet to give me my money’

I
n Lucknow, Manoj Rai (27) lamented his “foolishness”. Lured into SpeakAsia’s scheme, the MNC executive invested Rs 1 lakh on May 2, 2011. “A week after I enrolled in the scheme I saw media reports about the fraud,” he told TOI. Rai said he has collected over 1,000 points which are of no use to him as he has not received a single paisa from the company. One can get an account with SpeakAsia for Rs 11,000. “I bought 10 accounts for Rs 1 lakh. Every week two surveys arrive into each of the accounts. The survey can be about a product like a TV. Alternatively, it can address a topic like increase in fuel prices.” The forms have questions with multiple choice answers. “I get 20 points for filling two forms in the account per week, which means in one month I could earn a total of 80 points per account,” he said. The points are credited into the account and each point is worth Rs 50. “One can earn Rs 4,000 per account every month,” he added. An account holder could spend these points to buy products that are sold through Speak Asia’s website.” But when Rai decided to redeem his points, he did not get a single rupee.


The Times of India, July 31, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Man questioned in scooter theft

MUMBAI UNDER ATTACK


Mateen Hafeez & Soumittra S Bose | TNN


Mumbai/Nagpur: The antiterrorism squad (ATS), probing the 13/7 triple bomb blasts in the city, questioned a 30-year-old man on Fridayin connection with stealing a twowheeler,whichwasfoundshattered near the Zaveri Bazar bombblastsite.
Meanwhile, a search was conductedin Nagpur for a suspect who could be a conspirator in the case. An ATS team conducted raids at Mominpura in Nagpur and later headed towards Wardha district.

The police have, so far, questioned more than 600 persons in the state, but in vain. “We are questioning this twowheeler thief. He is from Rajasthan, but one thing is still not clear as to why did the stolen two-wheeler reach Zaveri Bazar. His answers are not sat
isfactory,” said a policeofficer.

Three blasts at Opera House, Zaveri Bazar and Dadar in Mumbai killed 25 and injured morethan a hundred. The police was still struggling to get a clear image of a
suspected bomber from the CCTV footage, obtained from shopkeepers.

National Investigation Agency (NIA) and ATS conducted a search in Nagpur as well in as Wardha and Amravati. The hunt is on for Manzar Imam, an alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM)operative, a gold medalist in Urdu from Ranchi University. Imam’s name is learnt to feature in the list of

suspectslinkedtotheMumbai blasts. Imam’s closeness to Danish Riyaz, also from Ranchi, has made him one of the prime suspects. He may have had the plan of action for IM’s sleeper modules that were gearing up for triggering the blasts. Riyaz is in Gujarat police’scustody.

Both Imam and Riyaz, an IT expert, were learnt to be former members of the banned StudentsIslamicMovementof India (SIMI). Security agencies had reached Nagpur to traceImam,whose relativeswere residentsof Mominpura.


The Times of India, July 30, 2011

Online survey firm ‘dupes’ investors of 1,300 crore

A NATION-WIDE SCAM? Arrested COO Tarak Bajpai had served with the Indian Air Force as a commissioned officer and runs a commercial pilot training academy in Indore

Mateen Hafeez and Venugopal Pillai TNN

Mumbai/Indore:In an operation that unfolded in Indore, the economic offences wing of the Mumbai police arrested Tarak Bajpai, the chief operating officer of SpeakAsia—a Singapore-based pyramid-marketing company—in the wee hours of Friday for allegedly perpetrating a nationwide scam amounting to Rs 1,320 crore.

Three other senior members of the company were also arrested but not the CEO who, the police say, is hiding in Dubai. The firm, which claims to have 12 lakh clients across the country, has also been accused of transferring more than Rs 700 crore to Singapore.


The Singaporeregistered company’s chairperson is a Singaporean of Indian origin, Haren Kaur, and the CEO for the Indian operations, Manoj Kumar, is currently in Dubai. The firm functioned at many levels through its internet portal, speakasiaonline.com. Investors enrolled to become panellists for a fee of Rs 11,000, after which they were paid Rs 1,000 for every two survey forms they filled per week.


SpeakAsia left clients’ e-wallets empty: Cops
Police Claim Singapore-Based Firm May Have Duped 12 Lakh Indians
Mumbai/Indore: Addressing the media on Friday, Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police (Mumbai crime branch) said: “We have arrested SpeakAsia COO (India head) Tarak Bajpai (36) and his three colleagues—Rajeev Mehrotra, technical head for the portal, Shaikh Rais Latif (32), assistant for daily portal operations and in-charge of regular pop-ups, and Ravi Janakraj Khanna (44), finance accountant, for this fraud. The company had 150 franchises across the country and 18 in Maharashtra.” The Esplanade Court on Friday remanded all four accused in police custody till August 4.

Roy said: “Each panellist would be given a password to login and two surveys a week to fill. For conducting one survey online, a panellist would be entitled to 10 points, which would be worth Rs 500. They were promised Rs 52,000 a year.”

Initially, SpeakAsia claimed the surveys were conducted on behalf of clients that included top banks and multinational companies such as Nestle and ICICI. However, these firms have denied having any association with SpeakAsia. Later in May, as CID, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Income Tax started investigating the company and raided its offices and blocked its ac
counts, SpeakAsia allegedly retracted its associations with some of the MNCs it had mentioned. Roy said that panellists were given e-wallets to hold the points collected. They also promised that the points would be transferred to the investor’s bank account in the form of money or that a cheque would be issued to them. Investors could get points equivalent to Rs 1,000 for every new recruit.

Bajpai, who is a resident of Indore, was arrested at his bungalow in 74 Vijay Nagar scheme, even as hundreds of local investors gathered to protest his innocence. A calm Bajpai told the media that he was going to Mumbai for a ‘minor interrogation’ and assured investors that
their money was safe. The company has been advertising regularly in the mainstream media saying it is innocent of all the charges it has bee accused of.Rajvardhan Sinha, additional commissioner of police (EOW), said that Bajpai was being questioned about the company’s financial transactions and the money transferred outside India. “He has been working with SpeakAsia for little more than a year and takes home a monthly salary of Rs 35,000, some shares and incentives.” said Sinha.

The arrests were made after two Mumbai investors lodged a complaint with the EOW, while the FIR was lodged on July 28. The complainants claimed they had been cheated of Rs 5.43 lakh. “One of the complaint’s wallet was full of points, but no money had been transferred to his bank account. He was given any cheque either,” said Roy. In May, the IT had raided several offices of this firm and documents were seized. “Many of their bank accounts have been frozen and the IT is probing through what channel the money was transferred outside the coun
try,” said police sources. The ED may invoke Prevention of Money Laundering Act in this case.

Under mounting pressure, Bajpai in a seminar in June had said: “I am registering a website in India, and the Singapore account will be transferred to my Indian website.”


MULTI-CRORE SCAM?
THE COMPANY
SpeakAsia is not registered in India, but in Singapore. Its chairperson is a Singaporean of Indian origin Haren Kaur. The CEO for the Indian operations, Manoj Kumar, is hiding in Dubai said the police. The company’s defence lawyer said Kumar has been in Dubai for the last 10 days

ACCUSATIONS
Investigators have accused Speak Asia of perpetrating a nation-wide scam amounting to Rs 1,320 crore The firm, which claims to have 12 lakh clients in India, has also been accused of transferring more than Rs 700 crore to Singapore



ARRESTED
Tarak Bajpai (36), chief operating officer (right)

• Rajeev Mehrotra,
technical head for the portal

Shaikh Rais Latif (32) assistant for daily portal operations and in-charge of regular pop-ups

• Ravi Janakraj Khanna (44),
finance accountant

THE COMPLAINANT Mumbai resident Navneet Khosla filed a complaint after he was allegedly duped of the Rs 2.40 lakh he had invested in the scheme. Khosla, the managing director of PAFIC Consultants, said that in February 17, 2011, two members from Speak Asia visited his house and told him about the scheme. He filed a complaint Mumbai Crime Branch’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) after his repeated calls for payment went unanswered.

SpeakAsia COO Tarak Bajpai being produced in the Esplanade Court in Mumbai on Friday. The company has been accused of not paying its 12 lakh members and transferring Rs 700 crore to Singapore


My clients were never issued summons before their arrest. Suddenly they are picked up at 3am as if they are hardened criminals Abad Ponda | DEFENCE ADVOCATE



The Times of India, July 30, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cops to now focus probe on bike thieves

2 HELD BY KARNATAKA ATS


Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: Anti-terrorism squad (ATS) sleuths probing the 13/7 case in the city brought two persons from Bangalore to Mumbai after the duo could not satisfy the investigators while being questioned in connection with the triple blasts.

According to ATS sources, the two were detained by the Karnataka ATS, which informed their Mumbai counterparts. Their identities were not revealed, but sources said they hope to get some leads from their interrogation. “Our investigations are on. We are questioning all types of suspects. It’s not appropriate on our part to speak at this point of time,” said an ATS officer.

A team comprising officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is questioning some
suspects in Gujarat but it is learned that they have not got any leads in the case.

The police have also focused attention on bike and scooter thieves in the city after they found that the two-wheeler, near which the Zaveri Bazar bomb was planted, had been stolen a few hours prior to the blast. The police had been hunting for thieves on the run, who the police suspect could have been given the job of stealing the scooter for a few thousands. Around a dozen such thieves, now out on bail but still facing trial, were summoned at various police stations and questioned. “We are questioning them to find out about the thief/ thieves who did this job. The scooter owner’s employee told us that the scooter was stolen. If it’s true, we may get some leads in the investigation,” said an officer.

The investigators are focusing on this angles as such an investigation had helped the city crime branch unearth the biggest module of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) outfit in the country.

Based on a car theft case, the crime branch had arrested Afzal Usmani, who later revealed that stolen cars were used in the Ahmedabad bomb blasts. Even on July 6 this year, the ATS arrested two thieves of the IM who had stolen four vehicles on Usmani’s instructions.

Usmani’s interrogation had revealed a bigger syndicate of the IM involving four wings–the Shahabuddin brigade to strike in south India, the Mohammed Ghaznavi brigade to strike in the north, the Shaheed Al-Zarkavi brigade to attack VVIPs and the media cell, which sends emails.

The Times of India, July 29, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Scooter stolen HOURS BEFORE BLAST



ZAVERI BAZAR BLAST


Administrators Get Proactive As Cops Piece Together Info, Psychiatrists Shattered Lives



Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Investigations into the 13/7 triple bomb blasts have taken a dramatic twist. There is fresh information that the scooter parked near the spot at Zaveri Bazar where a bomb exploded, was stolen a few hours before the blast. Arjun Singh (25), an employee of a businessman whose scooter was found shattered on July 13 after the blast, was detained by the Kalachowkie unit of the state anti-terrorism squad (ATS). Singh, who is originally from Rajasthan, told investigators that he had gone to replace his scooter’s seat near Harkisondas Hospital a day before the blast.

“The seat was repaired and the next day morning, my scooter, which I usually park outside my rented room in Khetwadi, was either stolen or went missing,” Singh is learnt to have told the police. The garage is owned by one Mohammed Jilani from Madanpura near Mumbai Central.
More shocking is the fact that Singh did not register a missing scooter case. Singh told the police that he did not remember whether he had locked his scooter handle the last time he parked it. The police found the owner of the scooter with the help of its registration number. The owner, a business
man, told the police that though the scooter belonged to him, but it was Singh who usually used it.

Singh was first picked up by the Nagpada ATS and later taken to the Kalachowkie office a day after the blast. He was detained at Kalachowkie for more than a week, and now he has to appear before the cops every day.

Nine people were killed when a high-intensity bomb, planted at Zaveri Bazar, blew up on July 13. While the police are still struggling to connect the dots in the probe, no arrest has been made so far. On the other hand, the police had detained at least three mechanics who
repaired Singh’s scooter. “A policeman, who identified himself as Babubhai, asked us whether we had prepared any duplicate key of the scooter. We told him the truth, but he hit us with a belt. We have given all the details about our relatives, friends, our contact numbers and our whereabouts on that fateful day, but he just does not believe us,” said one of the mechanics.

The mechanic went on to say that they were given food meant for suspects and asked to sleep in a corner room with no fan. The mechanics were allowed to go after being detained for several days. But, they have been asked not to leave the city without first seeking permission from the investigating officers.

The mechanic, who was grilled by the ATS, told TOI: “Arjun Singh had been coming to get his scooter’s seat replaced almost every month since a year. Sometimes his scooter seat cover would be torn and, at others, it was not in a usable condition. We suspected that someone was playing a prank on him. We suggested that he change his parking place, but he ignored us.”

It may be recalled that the state CID is conducting an inquiry into the alleged custodial death of one Faiz Usmani, who was picked up by the city crime branch and allegedly tortured to death. Usmani was being quizzed on the bomb blasts investigation.
NO PLY ZONE: Baricades have been put up at Zaveri Bazar to stop vehicles


The Times of India, July 28, 2011

Nepal suspect may not be involved in 13/7


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: Investigating agencies have prima facie found that Mohammed Zaheer alias Rehan alias Zahid, caught in Nepal over “suspicious activities”, did not appear to be involved in Mumbai’s 13/7 triple bomb blasts.

Zahid (40), a resident of Sarlahi district in Nepal’s Terai plains near the Indian border, was arrested by the Kathmandu metropolitan police on Saturday under the Public Defence Act.
“Zaheer was picked up and arrested by the Nepal police after they found that he was making inquiries about the Mumbai blasts over phone and through text messages,” said a Mumbai police officer, adding that Zahid was “just making inquiries like others” about the blasts. He was not present in Mumbai on the day of the blasts, when three bombs planted at Dadar, Opera House and Zaveri Bazar killed 24 and injured 128 others on July 13.

According to sources in the security establishment, Zahid was picked up just two days after the blasts and not last week. “Officials from the Indian security agencies discussed the issue with their Nepali counterparts and the interrogation report of Zahid too did not indicate his involvement as yet. No decision to bring him to India has been taken so far,” the official said. Zahid, an Indian national, had been in Mumbai a few years ago. He had shifted to Nepal last year, said sources.

Zahid had made at least four calls to Mumbai on the blast day, sources said. “The security agencies have got these numbers on which Zahid had made phone calls. The numbers are now under surveillance to make it sure they had no role to play in the blasts.”


The Times of India, July 28, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Intel team in Kathmandu to probe suspect’s 13/7 links




Indian Living In Nepal Arrested For Sending Suspicious SMSes, Making Calls To Indian Cities After Serial Blasts


Mateen Hafeez TNN


Ateam comprising Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau officials reached Kathmandu on Tuesday to enquire if Mohammed Zaheer alias Rehan alias Zahid, an Indian national caught in Nepal two days ago, had any links with 13/7.

Zahid (40), currently a resident of Sarlahi district in Nepal’s Terai plains near the Indian border, was arrested by the Kathmandu Metropolitan police on Saturday under the Public Defence Act.

He allegedly sent and received suspicious SMSes and made phone calls to several Indian cities since the July 13 triple blasts in which 128 people were injured at Dadar, Zaveri Bazar and Opera House in Mumbai. The ATS and police in Maharashtra have so far questioned more than 1,500 people but no arrest has been made.


State-run Gorkhapatra daily in Kathmandu flashed a story on Tuesday claiming that Zahid was arrested from Baluwatar on the outskirts of Kathmandu and was being questioned by the police’s anti-terrorist unit in connection with the Mumbai blasts.

However,there was no con
firmation about Zahid’s involvement in the Mumbai blasts. “We do not have any official confirmation on such an arrest or detention in Nepal. Had the arrest been made in connection with the blasts, the information would have been passed to the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS),” a senior ATS officer told TOI on Tuesday. He further added that there was no suspect in their list named Zahid.

Zahid had travelled to Mumbai several times in the past. The numbers to which he was allegedly texting messag
es or making phone calls were not revealed.

The ATS is yet to make a breakthrough in the blast case though it has been 13 days since the blasts occurred. The Kathmandu-based newspaper reported that Zahid had been conducting suspicious activities from his rented apartment in Baluwater, an upmarket area in the capital which also houses the official residence of the Nepalese Prime Minister.

Kathmandu police spokesperson, Navaraj Dhakal, said that a man named Zahid was arrested but “we have no information about his links with the Mumbai blasts.” Meanwhile, superintendent of police Kedar Rijal, the Kathmandu police chief, said that Zahid was arrested for fighting with locals.

Nepal and India do not have an extradition treaty and a draft pact to this effect has been pending with that country for years.


THE NEPAL SUSPECT

Mohammed Zahir alias Rehan alias Zahid
Age | 40

Nationality | Indian


Resident Of |
Sarlahi district in Nepal’s Terai plains, near Indian border

Arrested From |
Baluwatar, an upmarket area near Kathmandu


Accused Of |
Ostensibly held for fighting with locals, Zahid is believed to have sent and received suspicious SMSes and made calls to a number under watch for the 13/7 blasts


Mumbai Link |
Zahid has visited Mumbai several times in the past


DF questions
Faiz Usmani interrogation
A pprehensions on the death of Faiz Usmani following a heart attack while being interrogated by police on his brother’s alleged role in 13/7, are being raised by members of the ruling Democratic Front alliance too. On Tuesday, Hussain Dalwai, nominated to the Rajya Sabha last week, said in the legislative council that the manner in which Usmani was summoned and questioned needs probing.


The Times of India, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ATS hunts man who asked about Metro


Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Clutching at whatever information it can get, the state anti-terrorism squad (ATS) is now looking for a man who had been spotted near the Dadar terror site hours before the blast, asking about “Metro rail” route. The police have recorded statements of two shopkeepers who are believed to have interacted with him.

“His accent seemed to indicate someone belonging to
Kolkata. There is no Metro rail in Mumbai, but in Delhi. The way he asked questions was suspicious, which is why two shopkeepers reported the incident to investigators. His description was taken and the time noted,” said a police source.

ATS has been focusing on some suspects from Kolkata and, in fact, ATS chief Rakesh Maria had sought information about some people from West Bengal as well. The description of this
man has been given to the ATS team on the case.

The Dadar bomb was planted on the roof of a bus stop, which killed one and injured 14 others. Sources in the ATS said that the three bomb blasts at Zaveri bazaar, Opera House and Dadar where 24 people were killed and 128 injured could be the handiwork of some splinter groups. “We have been checking all members of banned outfits. However, it seems to be the handi
work of some new group, which might have taken part in earlier terror strikes as well,” said an officer. The police were questioning three motorcycle mechanics at the Kalachowkie ATS unit, four others at the Vikhroli unit and more in other police offices.

On Monday evening, Rakesh Maria went to brief state home minister about progress in the investigation. He is learnt to have told senior officials about some “important lead”.

The Times of India, July 26, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

ATS ropes in geeks to decode ‘terror’ email


Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: The anti-terrorism squad (ATS), which is probing the 13/7 triple blasts, is trying to decode an email which it thinks may help it to crack the case. The ATS has contacted several computer experts, geeks and even hackers to help it decode the message.

The email was sent by an Indian Mujahideen (IM) member to another operative nearly 25 days before the triple blasts on July 13 which killed 23 people and injured 127. One out-of-context line, which does not relate to rest of the message in the email, caught the investigators’ attention. It reads: “Students kiayyari hogayi hai. Exam kab aur kahan hai?” (Students have completed their preparation. Where and when is the exam?).


Meanwhile, the Kalachowkie unit of the ATS questioned four persons on Saturday. “We have some leads but no major breakthrough yet,” said a senior ATS official.

ATS officials suspect that the assembled bombs were brought near the blast sites where digital timers were fixed on them. “Even terrorists will not take the risk of car
rying a live bomb. There must have been at least one person who knew how to set the time in the digital devices,” said an investigator.

Meetings keep officials busy A slew of meetings with representatives of various investigating agencies from across the country is keeping the ATS top brass busy.
“Senior officials have to attend two to three meetings daily. These men are in Mumbai to share intelligence inputs, but such meetings take up a lot of time and officers hardly get to speak to their bosses,” said an officer. On Friday, a five-member team of the Research and Analysis Wing met ATS chief Rakesh Maria and discussed the 13/7 probe for nearly five hours. Similarly, officials of the National Investigation Agency have been visiting the ATS headquarters almost daily. Officials of the Karnataka ATS, Gujarat police and the Intelligence Bureau, to name a few, have also been doing the rounds of the ATS headquarters almost daily. Mateen Hafeez

The Times of India, July 25, 2011

Cops: Phone firms hand in glove with tout to boost sales



1 LAKH SIM CARDS SEIZURE


Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: The probe into the seizure of one lakh SIM cards in Bhiwandi indicates connivance of some service providers to show an increase in sales, the police said.

The arrested accused, Anwar Bablu (33), had been selling SIM cards for making national and international calls for the last six months, the police said.


On July 22, the Shanti Nagar police in Bhiwandi arrested Bablu, who owns a PCO, for possessing one lakh SIM cards. The cards belonged to various service providers. Bablu is a native of Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh; he told the police that various companies and distributors helped him procure the SIM cards.

K P Raghuvanshi, Thane police commissioner, said, “We are trying to find out who gave him so many SIM cards. The culprit will be arrested soon.” Shafqat Usmani, a SIM card retailer, said, such cards are mostly given to retailers by companies. “The firms promise incentives and lucra
tive offers to sell maximum number of SIM cards. In most cases, we have observed that the companies fill the customer application form (CAF) and simply ask retailers or distributors to sell the cards,” said Usmani.

Another retailer said that a delegation of SIM card dealers had met department of telecommunication (DoT) officials and described instances when SIM cards were activated on tendering fake and forged documents. “As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) rule it’s the duty of service providers to verify the documents of a SIM card holder within seven days of activation. However, the companies ask retailers to do this task,” said Amjad Khan, owner of Misbah Electronics.

Bablu arrest comes at a time when the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) and central agencies are busy scrutinizing thousands of phone calls made before and after the triple bomb blasts in Mumbai on July 13. An ATS team also landed at Bhiwandi to assist in the probe.

Bablu has been booked for criminal breach of trust and cheating. He has been remanded in police custody till July 25. Bablu had been selling SIM cards, in most of the cases without any document, to customers at a cheaper rate. He would ask his regular customers to use the card and return it when the balance exhausted. The SIM cards would be recharged and given to other customers.


The Times of India, July 25, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

13/7 blasts probe looks at five mobile numbers


Calls Were Made To Ahd, Benares and Rajasthan

Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: Investigators into the 13/7 serial bomb blasts are focusing on five mobile numbers from Ahmedabad, Benaras, Rajasthan and Mumbai.

Police sources said repeated calls were made from Zaveri
Bazar and Crawford Market to a number in Ahmedabad before and after the blasts, while calls were also made from a mobile in Opera House area to someone in Benaras. The sources said the police zeroed in on these numbers while scanning over 800 telephone calls. Another number, say police, was traced to Rajasthan. Twenty-one people died and 130 were injured in three blasts at Opera House, Zaveri Bazar and Dadar on July 13.

The call data records of these “suspicious” calls have been scrutinized and the police have contacted the service providers. “Investigations into these mobile numbers disclosed that all were obtained with fake documents and addresses, and photos of some other persons were used. We are trying to find out who had been using these numbers. The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) is in touch with the Gujarat and Rajasthan police, and central agencies, but we have not been able to trace the suspicious persons who used the mobile numbers,” said an officer in the security establishment.

The police are also probing how SIM cards were issued on fake addresses and names. “The distributors and retailers of those SIM cards were summoned for questioning, but even they could not throw light on it,” the source said.

On Friday afternoon, a fivemember team of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), led by inspector-general Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, visited the ATS Nagpada headquarters and discussed the blasts investigations with its chief Rakesh Maria for nearly three hours.
“We have got important leads in the case but cannot reveal them now,” said Maria.


Govt to keep tabs on mall CCTVs too
Mumbai: The state has decided to keep tabs on human movement at malls, multiplexes and other spots following the July 13 blasts. Senior officials said the government may insist on round-the-clock access to images from CCTVs at such premises. The plan is to integrate that with extensive video surveillance being planned for roads, other public places and vital installations. The police are keen to access movement at crowded private places too. The state will invite expressions of interest from agencies to set up a network that can detect abnormal movement and sound an alert. TNN

The Times of India, July 23, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Parbhani, Guj detentions bring fresh leads

MUMBAI UNDER ATTACK


S Ahmed Ali TNN

Mumbai: The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has reportedly made a major breakthrough in the 13/7 blasts case after detaining three suspects, two of them from north Maharashtra and one from Gujarat. Around 11 people may have procured material for the bombs, and then assembled, transported and planted it. While senior ATS officials and crime branch officers were tightlipped, sources said investigators are closer to solving the case. In a separate development, PTI reported that Union home secretary R K Singh said that there was “important progress” in the case and the probe was on the right track.

Twenty people were killed on July 13 in three blasts at Zaveri Bazar, Opera House and Dadar in Mumbai. The three suspects are be
lieved to be members of the outlawed Indian Mujahideen (IM). Two suspects are from Parbhani, on the outskirts of Maharashtra, and one from a town near Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

ATS officials said they have detained some people on suspicion and are interrogating them to draw a final conclusion. Interestingly, sources said the
ATS called off its daily meeting on Thursday. The meeting is held with ATS, crime branch and National Investigation Agency officials. ATS chief Rakesh Maria was unavailable for comment. Officials said they were interrogating the suspects on where they were a week before the blasts, the day of the blasts and after the attacks. “A relative of one suspect has come to Mumbai and is camping near the ATS offices to defend him,” said an officer.

Police suspect the perpetrators assembled the bombs in rented premises close to south Mumbai. In 2006, IM members had ‘assembled’ the 11/7 train bombs in a rented slum rehabilitation authority (SRA) flat at Sewri. “We have concrete leads and are confident of cracking the case,” said an officer. Gujarat has been on the investigators’ lens in the case. Six of the 21 IM members held by the Mumbai crime branch in 2008 said they wanted to take revenge for the post-Godhra riots.

In 2003, the crime branch held many youths from Aurangabad, Parbhani and Jalna for the 2002 Ghatkopar blast. But eight were acquitted. Khwaja Yunus, allegedly killed in police custody, was also from Parbhani. See also Pages 4, 5

Police hunt for perfume bombs I ntelligence agents sent an alert on Wednesday that new bombs could come in the form of perfume bottles and target senior officials and dignitaries. The alert was sent to police stations, crime branch units and the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) offices in the city. The alert said: “The bomb may be sent in the form of modified bottles/containers as gifts. The senior officials and the dignitaries may be targeted. So be careful and look for such modified bottles.” The alert added that the perfume bomb could contain improvised explosive devices. “If it’s pushed to spray on the body, it may explode,” apolice officer said. City police officers said that this is the first time that they were hunting for a perfume bomb. Mateen Hafeez

The Times of India, July 22, 2011

IM took in 13 new recruits this year


Mateen Hafeez


Mumbai: During investigations into the 13/7 blasts, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has identified 13 new recruits of the banned Indian Mujahideen (IM). The new recruits are reportedly holed up in Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

“The induction of these recruits took place this year. We have so far questioned four such youths who were part of IM sleeper cells. It is too early to say whether some of this group carried out the terror strike,” said an official.

The ATS is still questioning around 30 IM members jailed in Sabarmati prison, Gujarat, and is said to have major leads in the probe. In Mumbai, a senior ATS officer said on Thursday, “We have summoned some suspects and are questioning them.” The suspects were being grilled at Kalachowkie, Bhoiwada and several other ATS offices.

ATS chief Rakesh Maria on Thursday rushed to brief state director-general of police Ajit Parasnis about the probe. Senior National Investigation Agency (NIA) and state intelligence department officials conducted meetings on the probe. The ATS headquarters at Nagpada had high-level meetings going on behind closed doors on Thursday. “Just give us sometime to verify information. You will soon hear the about the
case’s detection,” said an ATS officer. Meanwhile, sources in the Mumbai crime branch, which is conducting a joint probe with the ATS, said they summoned and recorded the statements of around 15 IM sympathizers in the last couple of days.

“Most of them were mentioned in the interrogations of jailed IM operatives. Our teams are also looking for those who might have connections with the outfit,” said an officer. Around 40 people, earlier arrested for their alleged connections with the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, were also grilled in connection with the blasts.
“However, there was no breakthrough there,” said a crime branch officer. “Our personnel also grilled around 28 to 30 members of the Mumbai underworld, who were from the Chhota Shakeel and Chhota Rajan gangs. We are seeing if they helped plant the recent bombs or provided some logistical support.”

Airports under threat
The police received a terror alert warning them that the Pakistan-based terror outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) may target Mumbai’s domestic and international airports. The intelligence alert, received on Wednesday, said: “The LeT may try to organize terror hit at airports.” It did not specify the number of operatives who may be involved in the attack. Police, crime branch and ATS officials have been asked to beef up security not only at airports but also at other targets. “All we can do is be on high alert. These reports are ‘non actionable’,” said a senior police official. Mateen Hafeez | TNN


The Times of India, July 22, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Shattered bike may have had bomb



DAY 9


Cops Say Tiffin Bomb May Have Been Fitted Into Motorbike. Garage Owners Being Questioned

Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Investigators struggling to solve the 13/7 serial blasts case now suspect that the Zaveri Bazar bomb, which killed nine people, was fitted into a motorcycle. All motorcycle dealers, mechanics and garage owners in the city, especially those in south Mumbai, are being called for questioning.

Initially, the police had suspected that the Zaveri Bazar bomb was kept in a tiffin and placed in the boot of a scooter. Later, they said the tiffin bomb may have been placed on the scooter’s seat. While an Activa scooter was found completely shattered, its owner was later traced and cleared of involvement.

The cops now say that the tiffin bomb may have been fitted into the bike, probably a Splendor, which is completely shattered. The extent of damage suggests that the bomb was not just kept, but fitted in the bike, said sources. In fact, Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Rakesh Maria had said during a press briefing on Saturday, “Several motorcycles and scooters were recovered from the spots and the owners are being called and verified. Investigators are still working on one vehicle which has not been claimed.” Since Saturday, the owners of two scooters were traced. However, one bike remains unidentified, said police sources.

“The most important thing is to identify the bike’s owner. The bike has been smashed completely and the task appears difficult, but we are approaching everyone for help,” said an officer. The police are also focusing on around half-a-dozen phone numbers in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh on which calls were made to and from Mumbai. The three blasts at Zaveri Bazar, Opera House and Dadar on July 13 killed 20 people and injured 130.

Policemen have been asking mechanics if they have fitted anything suspicious onto any bike in the recent past. However, the results of the questioning are not known. A bike mechanic from Nagpada was questioned about his disappearance from the city from July 12 to 15. The mechanic said he had gone to Goa on the bidding of his friend Kamal Khan (name changed), who is also from Nagpada. Khan, who works as a hardware engineer from Andheri, was summoned on Tuesday to the Mumbai ATS Kalachowkie office. He told police that he had sent the mechanic to Goa to live with his relatives and scout for a place there to open a garage. Khan was allowed to leave at midnight on Tuesday.

Khan later told his relatives that there were seven to eight motorbike mechanics at the ATS office. Police officials were asking the mechanics if they had fitted anything suspicious onto a motorbike recently, or if they had heard of any such case.

The police are also trying to get information from 44 garage owners in the central Mumbai area, including Nagpada, Shuklaji Street, Arab Lane, Madanpura and Mumbai Central. “There are seven people who make bike and car number plates. We are also meeting them and trying to confirm if some suspicious vehicle came to them. Moreover, two people dealing in secondhand bikes are also being taken into confidence for the purposes of investigation, said sources.


Unclaimed vehicle |
New
clues emerge on nature of bomb left at Zaveri Bazar after officials inspect that remains unclaimed


Phone clues |
Cops are
focusing on around six suspicious phone numbers in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh


False identities |
Blast
suspects who are in jail have had visits from people who’ve given fake names and addresses


Joint efforts |
National
Investigation Agency and Bangalore ATS teams met with the Mumbai ATS on Wednesday


The Times of India, Jul 21, 2011

City trader held, released in Guj


Habeeb Qadri


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: It was a nervous three days for a city-based garment dealer and his family after he was picked up by police in Ahmedabad on Sunday. Habeeb Qadri, 53, was detained by the Gujarat police for questioning in connection with the Mumbai serial blasts. After that, his wife found herself stranded at Hotel Palm Residency with her two minor children.

Qadri is a commission agent for garment manufacturing. He usually visits Ahmed
abad and thought he would take his family along this time. “My father, mother, seven-year-old brother and sister were staying at Hotel Palm Residency. On July 17, a police team arrived at the hotel. They told my mother they were taking my father for questioning,” said Naseeb, eldest son of Qadri, who was in Mumbai.

The Qadris stay near Imambada in Jogeshwari (E). “On the morning of July 18 at 9 o’- clock, the police took my father back to the hotel for a change of clothes and then took him away again,” said Naseeb. “My
family had all the documents and identification papers. My father gave references of his business associates.”

Sources said Qadri was allowed to make phone calls to his wife, but had been asked not to step outside the room
he was being questioned in at the time. Several activists came forward to contact the Gujarat police. On Wednesday evening, Qadri was released and allowed to return to the hotel. He and his family were reportedly on their way to Mumbai.


The Times of India, July 21, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Based On CCTV Images, Drawing To Be Released Among Select Cops, Informers


SECURITY HAZARD: Despite the bomb at Zaveri Bazar being placed on a two-wheeler, a number of scooters and bikes continued to be parked in the area on Tuesday, six days after the blasts Related story P 4


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has prepared a sketch of a suspected Zaveri Bazar bomber based on witness accounts and CCTV footage.

Officials said the sketch will not be made public so as not to jeopardize the probe. It will, however, be circulated amongst select officers and a few others. “This is a sensitive investigation and we do not want to reveal anything until the case is cracked. The sketch has been given to members of the investigation teams and some top informers,” a senior officer told TOI.

The sketch will be checked against old police records and “shown to those arrested in past terror cases in order to establish the suspect’s identity”.

A few officers claimed that sketches of two individuals present at Zaveri Bazar before the blasts have been created and circulated in the force. Others, however, denied it. Just a few days ago, the police prepared a sketch of the Opera House bomber after studying the CCTV footage from the area. That too was not put out in the public domain for fear of endangering the probe.

“Copies of these sketches have been given to top informers. These will also be shown to the terror suspects recently arrested in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and elsewhere. We may get some leads from them,” the senior officer said. It is understood that while the ATS is focusing more on the modus operandi of the blasts, it is also heavily relying on the sketches.

The police created the Zaveri Bazar bomber’s sketch after studying the CCTV footage and with the help of eyewitnesses. The firm contracted to enhance the CCTV images also helped a lot. “This firm has worked in Holly
wood. They are experts in enhancing grainy images,” said the officer.

Meanwhile, the name of a top Indian Mujahideen commander has cropped up in the 13/7 probe. Mohsin Chaudhary was among the main conspirators behind the German Bakery bombing that killed 17 people last year. “As per our information, Chaudhary visited Pakistan in September 2010. We lost his trail after that. Now some events have made us believe that he might have recruited some new members,” said another officer.

On Tuesday, members of the Na
tional Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted a five-hour meeting with ATS chief Rakesh Maria and personnel from other intelligence agencies. “We are conducting meetings with central agencies, sharing information and discussing various things. It is taking time but we will soon crack the case,” said Maria.

The police suspect that three teams of two individuals each were given the task of planting the bombs. Each team was given one site: Zaveri Bazar, Opera House and Dadar. The police are also exploring if these six
men were recently recruited by the Indian Mujahideen.

Officers are also investigating if the Delhi’s Jama Masjid firing case module was behind 13/7. The Jama Masjid attack occurred on September 19, 2010, when two gunmen on a motorcycle fired at a tourist bus near Gate 3 of the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, injuring two Taiwanese tourists. About three hours later a car parked approximately 150 metres from the spot caught fire, apparently caused by a minor blast. Subsequently, IM claimed responsibly for the attack.


The Times of India, July 20, 2011

All fingers point at IM’s hand in blasts


TAKING COVER: The buzz was back at Zaveri Bazar on Tuesday


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: The police might not admit it officially, but their probe into last week’s blasts has mostly stayed focused on the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Police officials say that while there are signs of a new terror group’s emergence, the way 13/7 was executed rules out most groups except for the IM.

They point out that the blasts had all the hallmarks of an IM job: the perpetrators were well acquainted with the areas, which means they probably had local support. Going by the evidence collected till now, it is almost certain the bombers were not foreigners.

Besides, there are other clues. Officials say that the bombs used in 13/7 had ammonium nitrate, and were placed, at least at one site, in a tiffin box. The same signs were witnessed in earlier blasts perpetrated by the IM.

The IM first came on law enforcement agencies’ radar in a major way after the blasts in Ahmedabad and New
Delhi in 2008. Officials say its recruits come from a number of states, which invariably allows the outfit local intelligence and support. “The outfit selected recruits from diverse backgrounds. It enlisted car thieves, IT professionals, college students and others. Some of its people are tech-savvy while others are school dropouts,” said an investigator. “All of them are acquainted with their cities and are committed to the outfit’s cause of terrorism.”

According to the Gujarat police, IM is the shadowy umbrella group that includes members of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India
(SIMI). It came in contact with Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2006 and has since sent several of its recruits abroad for training in operating firearms and assembling bombs. It has dozens of sleeper cells in India and its hand is suspected in at least 16 terror attacks on the country so far.

“Its standard modus operandi is to send an email warning of a terror strike before the bombs go off. Sometimes emails are sent after the terror strikes claiming responsibility. These emails quote Koranic verses but misinterpret them,” an official told TOI.

In the last three years, security agencies have caught over 45 IM members for their suspected role in various bomb blasts. Even today, these agencies continue to track its sympathizers. “We are monitoring their activities—whom they meet, how they expand their network. We can’t arrest the sympathizers. Under what charges should we book them since they have not committed any crime,” said an officer.


The Times of India, July 20, 2011

Hindu groups also being grilled

ALL AVENUES OPEN: Investigators are following all possible leads


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: Investigators probing the serial bomb blasts that rocked Mumbai last week are also calling in suspected members and sympathizers of rightwing Hindu groups for interrogation.

For a few days now, an Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) team has been collecting information about a rightwing group and questioning two of its associates. But, officials say, the reason behind this line of investigation is mostly political. Until the perpetrators of the 13/7 blasts are finally identified and caught, the government wants to maintain a “balanced approach” and not be seen as targeting any particular community.

“We have not given a clean chit to any group. All options are open. We don’t want to name any outfit in particular. But all those involved in extremist activities are being questioned,” said a senior police officer. “Most of these are people
who appear in our records.”

It is learnt that the National Investigation Agency, which is probing terror cases involving rightwing Hindu groups, has also provided information on these groups to investigators in Maharashtra and asked that checks be conducted on all suspects.


The Times of India, July 20, 2011

Based On CCTV Images, Drawing To Be Released Among Select Cops, Informers


SECURITY HAZARD: Despite the bomb at Zaveri Bazar being placed on a two-wheeler, a number of scooters and bikes continued to be parked in the area on Tuesday, six days after the blasts


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has prepared a sketch of a suspected Zaveri Bazar bomber based on witness accounts and CCTV footage.

Officials said the sketch will not be made public so as not to jeopardize the probe. It will, however, be circulated amongst select officers and a few others. “This is a sensitive investigation and we do not want to reveal anything until the case is cracked. The sketch has been given to members of the investigation teams and some top informers,” a senior officer told TOI.

The sketch will be checked against old police records and “shown to those arrested in past terror cases in order to establish the suspect’s identity”.

A few officers claimed that sketches of two individuals present at Zaveri Bazar before the blasts have been created and circulated in the force. Others, however, denied it.

Just a few days ago, the police prepared a sketch of the Opera House bomber after studying the CCTV footage from the area. That too was not put out in the public domain for fear of endangering the probe.

“Copies of these sketches have been given to top informers. These will also be shown to the terror suspects recently arrested in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and elsewhere. We may get some leads from them,” the senior officer said. It is understood that while the ATS is focusing more on the modus operandi of the blasts, it is also heavily relying on the sketches.

The police created the Zaveri Bazar bomber’s sketch after studying the CCTV footage and with the help of eyewitnesses. The firm contracted to enhance the CCTV images also helped a lot. “This firm has worked in Holly
wood. They are experts in enhancing grainy images,” said the officer.

Meanwhile, the name of a top Indian Mujahideen commander has cropped up in the 13/7 probe. Mohsin Chaudhary was among the main conspirators behind the German Bakery bombing that killed 17 people last year. “As per our information, Chaudhary visited Pakistan in September 2010. We lost his trail after that. Now some events have made us believe that he might have recruited some new members,” said another officer.

On Tuesday, members of the Na
tional Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted a five-hour meeting with ATS chief Rakesh Maria and personnel from other intelligence agencies. “We are conducting meetings with central agencies, sharing information and discussing various things. It is taking time but we will soon crack the case,” said Maria.

The police suspect that three teams of two individuals each were given the task of planting the bombs. Each team was given one site: Zaveri Bazar, Opera House and Dadar. The police are also exploring if these six
men were recently recruited by the Indian Mujahideen.

Officers are also investigating if the Delhi’s Jama Masjid firing case module was behind 13/7. The Jama Masjid attack occurred on September 19, 2010, when two gunmen on a motorcycle fired at a tourist bus near Gate 3 of the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, injuring two Taiwanese tourists. About three hours later a car parked approximately 150 metres from the spot caught fire, apparently caused by a minor blast. Subsequently, IM claimed responsibly for the attack.


The Times of India, July 20, 2011

All fingers point at IM’s hand in blasts

TAKING COVER: The buzz was back at Zaveri Bazar on Tuesday


Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: The police might not admit it officially, but their probe into last week’s blasts has mostly stayed focused on the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Police officials say that while there are signs of a new terror group’s emergence, the way 13/7 was executed rules out most groups except for the IM.

They point out that the blasts had all the hallmarks of an IM job: the perpetrators were well acquainted with the areas, which means they probably had local support. Going by the evidence collected till now, it is almost certain the bombers were not foreigners.

Besides, there are other clues. Officials say that the bombs used in 13/7 had ammonium nitrate, and were placed, at least at one site, in a tiffin box. The same signs were witnessed in earlier blasts perpetrated by the IM.

The IM first came on law enforcement agencies’ radar in a major way after the blasts in Ahmedabad and New
Delhi in 2008. Officials say its recruits come from a number of states, which invariably allows the outfit local intelligence and support. “The outfit selected recruits from diverse backgrounds. It enlisted car thieves, IT professionals, college students and others. Some of its people are tech-savvy while others are school dropouts,” said an investigator. “All of them are acquainted with their cities and are committed to the outfit’s cause of terrorism.”

According to the Gujarat police, IM is the shadowy umbrella group that includes members of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India
(SIMI). It came in contact with Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2006 and has since sent several of its recruits abroad for training in operating firearms and assembling bombs. It has dozens of sleeper cells in India and its hand is suspected in at least 16 terror attacks on the country so far.

“Its standard modus operandi is to send an email warning of a terror strike before the bombs go off. Sometimes emails are sent after the terror strikes claiming responsibility. These emails quote Koranic verses but misinterpret them,” an official told TOI.

In the last three years, security agencies have caught over 45 IM members for their suspected role in various bomb blasts. Even today, these agencies continue to track its sympathizers. “We are monitoring their activities—whom they meet, how they expand their network. We can’t arrest the sympathizers. Under what charges should we book them since they have not committed any crime,” said an officer.


The Times of India, July 20, 2011

Hindu groups also being grilled

ALL AVENUES OPEN: Investigators are following all possible leads


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: Investigators probing the serial bomb blasts that rocked Mumbai last week are also calling in suspected members and sympathizers of rightwing Hindu groups for interrogation.

For a few days now, an Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) team has been collecting information about a rightwing group and questioning two of its associates. But, officials say, the reason behind this line of investigation is mostly political. Until the perpetrators of the 13/7 blasts are finally identified and caught, the government wants to maintain a “balanced approach” and not be seen as targeting any particular community.

“We have not given a clean chit to any group. All options are open. We don’t want to name any outfit in particular. But all those involved in extremist activities are being questioned,” said a senior police officer. “Most of these are people
who appear in our records.”

It is learnt that the National Investigation Agency, which is probing terror cases involving rightwing Hindu groups, has also provided information on these groups to investigators in Maharashtra and asked that checks be conducted on all suspects.



The Times of India, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

13/7: Cops get ‘solid clues’ to Gujarat link

SECURITY ABOVE ALL ELSE: A policeman tells a biker that he can’t park his vehicle at Zaveri Bazar on Monday



S Ahmed Ali & Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: Investigations into the 13/7 serial blasts are focusing heavily on suspects in Gujarat, with the state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) reportedly getting major leads pointing to the involvement of the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Sources said the ATS, with the help of the Gujarat ATS, detained three suspects from Ahmedabad who are believed to be new IM recruits. The three have reportedly spilled the beans on the entire conspiracy. They are being brought to Mumbai for further investigations to decide the veracity of their statements. “We have now got concrete leads and are very confident of cracking the case,” said a senior officer.

Meanwhile, state ATS sources said the Zaveri Bazar bomb was kept in a steel tiffin and on the scooter’s seat, not in the boot. The Opera House bomb was planted in a dustbin, but whether a tiffin was used is not yet known. The Kalina Forensic Science Laboratory’s preliminary report says the bombs had ammonium nitrate and TNT.


Calls, emails put cops on Guj trail
ATS Gets Permission To Question IM Men Jailed Across India. Top Tech Cops In City To Scan Mails For Hidden Messages

Mumbai: Intercepted phone calls and emails have given clues to investigators that the 13/7 triple blasts may have a Gujarat connection. The state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), along with central agencies, has been monitoring phone calls, which led to clues being unearthed on Saturday. “The calls intercepted are suspicious. Some calls are just two to three minutes long, but seem important. We cannot ignore such calls. Investigations are at such a stage that we cannot utter a single word about the probe,” said a senior ATS officer.

In the 13/7 blasts, 19 people were killed and 129 injured in three blasts at Opera House, Zaveri Bazar and Dadar. The explosions took place in crowded areas from 6.54 pm to 7.06 pm.

Emails sent and received by arrested Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Danish Riyaz have not provided much information
about the Mumbai blasts, but helped police know about other IM operatives. Danish was arrested three weeks ago by the Gujarat ATS.

A two-member team from the National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), led by a policeman of inspector-general rank, was camping at ATS headquarters, Nagpada, Mumbai, on Monday. The NTRO suspects that some of the texts and pictures

in Danish’s emails could be a form of steganography, which involves hiding messages in small files. A text or picture message can be decoded only after using specific software.

On Monday, three police teams reached Gujarat. One is in Dang district and another in Ahmedabad. “We got good leads in the case over the past two days,” ATS chief Rakesh Maria
told TOI on Monday. “Investigations are on the right track and we will solve the case soon. For this, we are in touch with our Gujarat counterparts. We will name the outfit responsible only after we crack the case.”

The ATS last week moved an application before a special court in Mumbai seeking permission to interrogate a few IM members who are in jails in Surat,
Ahmedabad and Sabarmati (Gujarat), Arthur Road (Mumbai) and Jaipur. “We have got the permissions and are already questioning several IM members,” said a source. The suspiciouslooking man in the CCTV images from Opera House is thought to be a prominent IM operative.

A joint meeting of the state ATS, Gujarat police, NTRO officials, Intelligence Bureau and National Investigation Agency was conducted on Sunday. “We are getting good feedback and will nab the culprits soon,” said a police source. The police are also trying to determine if there were two blasts at Opera House. CCTV footage suggests a second blast within a few seconds of the first. “We are not sure whether there were two bombs as it is possible that after the explosion the petrol tank of a parked vehicle may have exploded,” said a source.

“The preliminary report of the Kalina Forensic Science Laboratory states that ammonium
nitrate and TNT were used along with other explosive substances in the bombs. The FSL is still working on debris and will send another report in the next few days. The detailed report will give a clearer picture,” said an ATS officer. He added that metallic pieces collected from the bomb sites were steel. “The bomb at Zaveri Bazar was brought in a steel tiffin. It was kept on a scooter’s seat and not in the boot,” he added. The Opera House bomb was kept in a dustbin. “This is the reason there is a huge crater in the road,” the officer said.

Maria said that, besides Gujarat, state ATS teams have reached various places in Uttar Pradesh, but he refused to divulge more information. With the revelations, Gujarat is again emerging as a hub of the IM. In 2008, 21 arrested IM members from Gujarat, Pune and other places had said they wanted to take revenge for the post-Godhra riots.


CCTV footage of the scene after the blast at Opera House on Wednesday



The Times of India, July, 19, 2011

Arthur Road inmates not yet grilled


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: Investigating agencies have said they are leaving no stone unturned in their bid to catch the perpetrators of the 13/7 blasts. In particular, everyone arrested in the past for links to terror cases is being questioned. However, sources at Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail have clarified that not a single investigating agency has arrived there as yet to question terror suspects behind bars.

An Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) team went to Madhya Pradesh on Friday to question eight Simi suspects. Five of them are in jail and permission was sought from the court to question them. However, the police have not yet questioned suspects at Arthur Road jail.

Suspects arrested in the 2006 Malegaon blasts, the 7/11 Mumbai train bombings and the Aurangabad arms haul cases are in Arthur Road jail. There are also several suspects arrested for their alleged association with banned outfits at the Arthur Road jail. However, the crime branch and ATS is yet to visit the jail. “No one has come to us after July 13 asking to question the undertrials. If they come, they will have to bring a court’s permission to question the inmates within the jail premises,” said a senior Arthur Road jail official.

Arthur Road jail officials said that a team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) did visit the jail before and after the recent Mumbai blasts, but the terror suspects were not questioned with regard to the 13/7 blasts. “The NIA is probing the 2006 and 2008 Malegaon blasts. The team had a court’s permission and questioning was limited to the previous blasts only. The suspects were not questions about last Wednesday’s blasts,” the jail source said.

Suspects arrested for the 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts, and those arrested for the Thane, Vashi and Panvel basts are lodged in Navi Mumbai’s Taloja jail. “No police agency has come here to question these suspects,” said a Taloja jail source.

The Times of India, July 19, 2011

Cops who leak info could get sacked, transferred


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and crime branch investigators, who are probing Wednesday’s serial blasts, have been warned not to leak information to the media or they may lose their jobs or get transferred.

While several investigative agencies are working on the 13/7 blasts case, most senior officials have remained tightlipped. The lower rungs and foot soldiers have been asked not to utter a single word before press personnel.

Various teams working on the blasts case have been asked not to share information with other teams without senior officials’ permission. Speaking to police personnel who are not part of the investigation has also been prohibited. “This is such a sensitive case that if anyone speaks unnecessarily, or leaks information that may hamper investigations, they could lose their job or be transferred to some other place,” said a senior crime branch officer.

It is learnt that senior officials in the special branch and state intelligence department have also been asked by the state government not to meet press representatives. Sources in the security establishment have also said that the various investigative agencies are keeping an eye on each other’s activities, the people they meet and those they interrogate.

The Times of India, July 19, 2011

Police want to trace ex-aides of ONGC case suspects

NERVOUS CITY: An unclaimed bag created panic at Vithal Wadi, near Opera House



Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: The 13/7 blasts investigators are trying to keep tabs on men named by Latif Rashid and Riyaz Ali Imtiyaz, the two suspects who allegedly planned to set the Mumbai ONGC building on fire. Imtiyaz, who worked at Mangaldas market near Zaveri Bazar, was also accused of doing a recce of the bazar area.

The two were arrested by the ATS in
March 2010 for planning terror strikes at ONGC, a Borivili mall and Mangaldas market. At Zaveri Bazaar, a powerful bomb killed nine people on July 13. “Investigators are going back to their interrogation reports and statements. The duo mentioned a few names and it’s necessary to check everyone. We are not naming any specific person, but we also don’t want to take any chances,” said a senior police official.

The duo had befriended several youths in the city who were later “neutralized” by police. “Some have become witnesses in the ONGC case,” said the officer. The police teams want to know if the neutralized youths had information about 13/7.


The Times of India, July 19, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

2 car thieves held for 2008 Gujarat blasts


Mateen Hafeez TNN

Mumbai: The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) recently arrested two suspected members of outlawed outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM) for stealing vehicles which were used for bomb blasts in Gujarat in July 2008.

The suspects, Mohammed Khan (32) and Ayyub Shaikh (28), are residents of Khazrana in Indore. Both were arrested on July 6 from near
Mankhurd railway station and booked under the Arms Act. The two have been sent to police custody till July 16.

“The two suspects are car thieves and had stolen four cars. Two of these stolen cars were used for the blasts in Gujarat,” ATS chief Rakesh Maria said, adding that a 7.65 mm pistol, a .32 revolver and two PAN cards were recovered from them.


In September and October 2008, the Mumbai crime branch had arrested 21 persons, alleging they were IM members and responsible for sending terror e-mails before and after the bombs blasts at various places in Gujarat and New Delhi. Nine people, including Shaikh and Khan, were shown as wanted in the cases.

“Khan has 25-30 cases of vehicle thefts registered against him at various police stations in the city,” said Maria. “He had come to Mumbai in the hope of becoming an actor, but could not succeed and started stealing. Khan was arrested in a theft case in 2005 and sent to Arthur Road jail where he befriended Afzal Usmani, a suspected IM member.” After IM decided to execute blasts in Gujarat, it ordered Usmani to arrange for four vehicles. Usmani asked Khan and Shaikh to arrange for the vehicles. On the intervening night of July 7 and 8, the two stole a WagonR from New Panvel and another car from Vashi.

“On the intervening night of July 14 and 15, they stole a Maruti 800 from Nerul and a WagonR from New Panvel. These cars were then delivered to Kayamudding Kapadia (now in jail) in Ahmedabad on July 15,” said Maria.


The Times of India, July 13, 2011

Imam acquitted of terror charges sent back to jail

TESTING TIMES: The state has challenged the imam’s acquittal. He has been sent back to prison as he failed to furnish a surety of Rs 25,000


Mateen Hafeez TNN

Mumbai: An additional sessions court on Tuesday sent city Haj House Imam Gulam Illahi Yahya Bakhshback to jail after he failed to furnish a surety of Rs 25,000. The court was hearing an application filed by the state government against Bakhsh’s acquittal in a five-year-old terror case.

On January 16, 2010, a Sewri fast-track court acquitted the imam of terror charges due to lack of evidence while sentencing three Kashmiris, nabbed in the same case, to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment.

In January 2006, the antiterrorism squad (ATS) arrested three Kashmiris—Khur
sheed Gani Lone alias Lala (35), Arshad Gulam Hussain (31) and Ramzan Wahab Qazi (64)—for possessing a foreignmake .32-bore pistol, 20 detonators, five timers and six live cartridges. Bakhsh was arrested a week later. The ATS claimed that Bakhsh had received around Rs 40 lakh through hawala channels and arranged accommodation for Lala, Hussain and Qazi.

A peon at the Haj House, Bakhsh used to lead n a m a zat the mosque inside Haj House. On November 15, 2010, the state government challenged Bakhsh’s acquittal. Bakhsh had been out on bail since January 16, 2010 and had been working at the Haj House since. Bakhsh’s lawyer U S Mirajkar said, “My client was granted bail, but the court rejected our request for cash surety. A surety requires lots of documentation and paper work and therefore it could not be arranged.”



The Times of India, Jul 13, 2011