Forget IT for a while. Spare a thought for the newest Indian trans-nationals. But they arenâ€™t listed on the stock exchange yet. Just chew on their management style: the planning is done in Karachi, â€˜skilledâ€™ manpower contracted from amchi Mumbai, and the job is executed in distant Bangkok. The Indian underworld of Mumbai origin is spreading its wings. And how! The attempt to kill Chhota Rajan in Thailand last week has focussed attemtion on the growing reach of the underworld, and the extent of its criminal operations worldwide. While don Dawood Ibrahim is based in Karachi, the operations of his D-Company are controlled from Dubai, and his â€˜businessâ€™ empire and â€˜operationsâ€™ extend across Sri Lanka, Singapore, Nigeria,Ghana, and even the UK, France and Germany. Rival Chhota Rajan, for years,
has been living out of his suitcase, flitting across Malaysia, Australia and Thailand. â€œThe organised crime syndicate is physically moving out of Mumbai slowly. This is not to say that Mumbai is crime free. But increasingly, theyâ€™re trying their luck outside,â€ says Mumbai Police Commissioner MN Singh.The Mumbai Police has been sniping at their heels, and turning on the heat.Violence has travelled with these international citizens. Gang wars too have broken territorial borders.The Bangkok shootout wasnâ€™t the first gangland strike outside of India. In an equally chilling hit, Nepal Member of Parliament Mirza Dilshad Beg was gunned down mafia-style in Kathmandu onJune 29, 1997. â€œBeg was a one-stop facilitator for all types of fugitives and subversives, and was a key ally of both the ISI and Dawood Ibrahim. He was more malevolent to Indian interests than even Dawood. Beg was wanted for several serious crimes against India, and just a few weeks before his killing, India had asked for his extradition,â€ says an Interpol officer. Chhota Rajan didnâ€™t need much persuasion to announce that he had ordered Begâ€™s killing. The shooter, who struck outside the apartment of the Kapilvastu MPâ€™s lover, was none other than Rohit Verma, who now met his nemesis at Bangkok on Sept. 15. In a business where image is as important as muscle,the self-styled â€œpatriotic donâ€ announced that he would get all â€œanti-India
gangstersâ€ killed. More importantly, he announced his arrival as a â€œcross-border terminatorâ€. â€œThe biggest challenge organised crime poses is its trans-nationality,â€ says CBI Joint Director Neeraj Kumar. â€œCriminals are able to globe-trot freely and dodge law-enforcement agencies, which donâ€™t have the same freedom to chase these criminals,â€ he frets. The mob knows this only too well. When gangster Babloo Srivastava was detained in Singapore in 1995 on the basis of an Interpol Red Corner Notice, Mirza Dilshad Beg â€” who at one time was even a Nepal Minister â€” dragged the Nepalese Home Minister to Singapore to lobby for Bablooâ€™s release on the ground that he was a Nepalese citizen. Babloo was travelling on a Nepalese passport. Like the evasive Pimpernel, you see the mafiosi here, you see them
there, you see them everywhere. Iqbal Mirchi, the drug baron aligned with Dawood Ibrahim, was arrested in London in 1998 on the basis of an Interpol alert. Now based in Dubai, he travels on a Somalian passport. Mirchiâ€™s close associate Dawood Haider Madia was similarly spotted and detained in Johannesburgh in 1998. Dawood Ibrahimâ€™s brother Anis Kaskar, one of the key accused in the 1993 Bombay Blasts, was arrested in Bahrain in 1996. Before the Indians could reach there and argue their case for extradition, Anis was bailed out by a member of the Sharjah royal family. Abu Salem, another
hitman, was held and released in Dubai. Intelligence agencies say trafficking of narcotics is principally sustaining these forays. Dawood Ibrahimâ€™s estimated stake in the narcotics trade alone is Rs 2,000 crore. It is drug trafficking which has enabled the D-Company to resurrect itself
after its marginalisation post-Bombay Blasts. With Ejaz Pathan as his trafficking deputy, Dawoodâ€™s elaborate network involves a collaboration with the LTTE. Heroin is pushed over land through Rajasthan and Gujarat to Mumbai, often in oil or milk tankers. â€œThatâ€™s because the Karachi port is closely monitored for movement of narcotics,â€ explains an intelligence officer. The heroin is repacked for ingenious concealment in Mumbai, and sent by road to agents at Chennai and Tuticorin. Arrests of some agents revealed that the LTTE has trained Dawood men in concealment techniques like
scooping out oranges, and filling them with the drug, or concealing contraband under embroidered strips on salwar-kameez suits. â€œConsignments are then shipped to Colombo, where a key lieutenant Laxman coordinates for Dawood with Moideen Shajohan and Velachari Stanley,â€ says an underworld watcher. The LTTE network is used to ship the heroin onwards to Western Europe and tap the market there. The link with the LTTE was forged after Kumaran Padmanabhan, the arms procurer for the Tigers, set up base at Karachi in 1994. Drug hauls and arrests of Sri Lankan nationals both in Mumbai and in Sri Lanka have confirmed this tie-up. Itâ€™s difficult to keep track, as deals are struck through Dubai, where Anis Kaskar, Iqbal Mirchi and Naved Khan manage operations. Theyâ€™ve also found a market in African countries like Ghana and Nigeria. Since supply is through shipment, concealed in containers, the Mumbai police are keeping watch on a number of dubious â€˜export-importâ€™ agencies which have sprung up. â€œThe Companyâ€™s â€˜pointmanâ€™ in Singapore is a woman called Aapa. Mirza Dilshad Beg used to call the shots in Nepal till he was killed,â€ reveals a Mumbai police officer. Another â€˜coreâ€™ area is piracy and â€˜insuranceâ€™. Not the one to savour a dull moment, the D-Company has extended its extortion to shipping operations, which it eupehemistically terms â€˜insuranceâ€™. Those involved in shady shipments are also guaranteed a â€˜safe passageâ€™ for a consideration, by using â€˜influenceâ€™ over Customs and police officials. There are reports about Dawood investing â€œhellishlyâ€ in real estate in Karachi, where heâ€™s closely watched by the Pakistani security agencies. Heâ€™s known to have invested substantially in shopping malls in the port city. In comparison, Chhota Rajanâ€™s empire is less imposing, but his area of operations is no less staggering. His primary interest is again narcotics-driven, and business for this don spreads across Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Nepal. He was known to have shifted base to Australia from Malaysia, before he was shot at in Bangkok. Always on his toes to evade Dawood hitmen, he was rumoured to be staying on board a ship off the coast of Malaysia to evade detection and the law. Another trick to keep others guessing about his wherabouts was his use of a Malaysian cellphone connection with a roaming facility. â€œThe bugger frustrated us with his roaming facility. We were unable to trace him for so long,â€ snorted Chhota Shakeel, who arranged the attack on him. Rajanâ€™s key men were Guru Sattam, Rohit Verma (now dead) and OP Singh. Both the major gangs retain their avid interest in Mumbai. Extortion and purchase of overseas distribution rights for Hindi films are the major businesses. â€œThe gangs have employed spotters, who report affluence or expensive acquisitions
like a fancy flat or a car. A phone call from a â€˜Bhaiâ€™ is enough to terrorise the people. As proof of their identity, the extortionist asks the victim to call back on a number. People have no option because they donâ€™t trust the police,â€ says a CBI officer. As money from construction rackets â€”which yielded as much as Rs 1 billion to the undreworld annually â€” dried up, theyâ€™ve started targetting the professional classes as well. â€œThey generally get a person killed to instil fear, and instant compliance,â€ he said. â€œTheyâ€™re still the loan sharks in the film industry, which is perpetually starved of funds. But now, they use intimidation for overseas distribution rights as well,â€ inform Mumbai Police. Rajiv Rai was shot at after he couldnâ€™t oblige with his Gupt, and Subhash Ghai was threatened after his Prdes release in
1997. In January this year, Rakesh Roshan was shot at outside his office immediately before the release of his film Kaho Na Pyar Hai. Typically, hit jobs are â€œsub-contractedâ€ to any one of the plethora of sub-gangs. â€œA typical hitman is very young and has no criminal background. It is very difficult to maintain surveillance,â€ admits a Mumbai cop. â€œThese gangs are still largely divided on communal lines, but religious fanaticism is no longer the primary motivation. Itâ€™s only money now. The rough estimate of the annual underworld turnover is Rs 15 billion. The rivalries are basically over turf and money,â€ informs a senior officer. Didnâ€™t we know that itâ€™s all about money, honey?
Those who live by the gun, die by it. Chhota Rajan knew that more than any one else. And he took every care to stay ahead of his enemies. But you canâ€™t run too far, the world isnâ€™t big enough. He was cornered by seven assassins in a Bangkok house last week. He survived and will possibly live to avenge
the attempt on his life. But thatâ€™ll be another story. The story for now is about an angry mentor out
for the blood of a former sidekick turned challenger. And the guru being the guru knows the game better possibly. The assassins were sent by Dawood Ibrahim and the plan was meticulously executed with the help, the Mumbai police suspects, the Pakistani ISI.
â€œThe lead we have got so far is that the plan to kill Chhota Rajan was hatched by Dawood Ibrahim with help from Pakistanâ€™s Inter State Intelligence,â€ says Kripa Shankar Singh, Maharashtraâ€™s Minister of State for Home. The plan was pieced together in Mumbai, the birthplace and battleground for the gangsters, and Karachi, Dawoodâ€™s home now.Dawoodâ€™s right-hand man, Chhota Shakeel, short-listed six men from Mumbai for the job â€” Munna Jhingada, Rashid Malbari and Salim Chikna among them. Munna was the main executioner. Wrong choice, it turned out later. And the D-Company should have known.
Munna had earlier tried to kill Arun Gawli, another Mumbai don, but missed. Actually, the hit was to be carried out at a public meeting organised by Gawli, but the don did not turn up and thus lived. But the net effect was: Munna failed. He failed again in Bangkok. He did not foresee that, of course, when he started out with the five other sharpshooters. He had coolly accepted the Rs 4 crore offered for the job and 10 weapons for the assault. The – company was not leaving anything to chance. It was a meticulously planned operation. The team was first taken to Kathmandu where, Mumbai police allege, the ISI helped them get forged Pakistani passports, which gave Munna and the others fake identity; Munna, for instance, became Shar Khan. Next stop: Karachi. They were joined there by four Pakistanis â€” Muhmad Salim, Mohammad Yusuf,
Farid Khan and Marik Ilyas. But they did not travel together. The Pakistanis took on the role of an advance team and entered Thailand on August 30; Munna and the other five followed by a Thai International flight on September 14.
The advance team had in the meantime hooked up with a Thai National, Chavalit alias Rajif Arunkiat, who was to become their local guide and host. While he himself lived in Intamara Soi 3 area, Rajif put Pakistanis in a rented apartment at Aree court. Then started the surveillance on Chhota Rajan and his host Rohit Verma. Rohit was an old friend of the don and a hitman. His real name is Dharmendra
R Pandey and moved to Bangkok with Chhota Rajan. While the don moved on to Australia subsequently, Pandey stayed on running his jewellery store that he had opened under an assumed name, Michael Dâ€™Souza. Rajan returned three months ago, to escape the increased security in Australia due to the upcoming Olympics. Under an assumed name, Vijay Daman, he became a guest of Rohit and his wife Sikandi Hama at their apartment, no 26 in Sukhumvit Soi. Ever the careful don, Rajan stayed home largely. But Rohit had a business to run so he carried on as usual. Unknown to both, their cosy arrangement was under surveillance. On September 15 the assassins decided to strike and strike they did, at 9:00 pm, with all the firepower they had. Rajan, his aide Raju Nepali and the hosts were in the living room watching television when the assassins, seven men, moved in two cars.
They neutralised first the guard at the gate, a Thai local, gagged and dumped. They stormed into the bunglow, fingers curled around the trigger for their respective automatics. Soon as they got in, the guns opened up, spraying the room with bullets. Rohit was hit so was his wife, his friend Rajan and the aide. Realising he had been fatally hit, Rohit yelled, â€œNanabhai Bhagoâ€. Nanabhai is Rajan, who bounded out of the room and threw himself out of a window. He broke some bones but was safe despite the three bullets in his belly. The assassins fled, meanwhile, when fired upon by dying Raju Nepali. The
assassinsâ€™ scrore: two dead and two wounded. But the two dead were Rohit and Raju Nepali and not the main quarry. Munna failed again.
They were friends once…
Vishal Thapar and Ketan Tanna
The Mumbai underworld is bracing itself for a fresh torrent of gunfire. The attack on Chhota Rajan last week was the D-Companyâ€™s message to Mumbai to set at rest doubts about who calls the shots. Now, the buzz is that Rajan will hit back soon by eliminating some of those accused of triggering the
1993 Bombay Blasts.
Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhalje (Chhota Rajanâ€™s real name), was the sword arm of don Dawood Ibrahim till the two parted ways over the latterâ€™s role in the Bombay blasts. Differences had arisen in 1992 itself after Dawood henchman Subhash Thakur killed three Chhota Rajan groupies. But after the blasts, they fell out compeletely, with Rajan positioning himself as a â€˜patriotic donâ€™ not wanting to betray his country, and challenging the hegemony of Dawood as a â€œpeopleâ€™s gangsterâ€. Over a hundred men have been eliminated in the last five years in Mumbai in the inter-gang warfare. Some top D Company sharp shooters like Mohan Kuttian, Sadhu Shetty and Jaspal Singh too abandoned ship along with Chhota Rajan, who fled Dubai, Dawoodâ€™s stronghold, after the bitter parting of ways. Turf battles in Mumbai took the shape of tit-for-tat killings. In June 1995, the D Company killed hotelier Ramanath Payyade, who paid protection money to Chhota Rajan. Earlier, they killed film producer Mukesh Duggal, who was reportedly an associate of Chhota Rajan. The latter served notice of his challenge to Dawoodâ€™s supremacy by killing ace sharp-shooter Sunil Sawant in August. Dawoodâ€™s retribution was swift and brutal. He got builder O P Kukreja, Chhota Rajanâ€™s friend, gunned down. The challenger responded by getting East West Airlines managing director, Thakiyuddin Wahid, bumped off by hired killers in November 1995. But the most sensational killing was that of Mirza Dilshad Beg, Nepal MP and one time minister, who was reportedly a point man for Dawood in Nepal. In triumphant interveiws to the media, Rajan claimed the scalp and said that the Indian intelligence agencies were aware of the plan to kill Beg, who was wanted by India for subversive activity.
Chota Rajan is believed to have assisted intelligence agencies in getting a low down on the activities of the D Company and its members using his intimate knowledge of the gang and its operations. To demonstrate his claims of being a Hindu don, Rajan threatened to kill those accused of engineering the Bombay bomb blasts. The most prominent accused to be killed was Saleem Kurla in April 1998, followed by Mohammad Jindran in June 1998 and Majid Khan on March 1, 1999. The D Company retaliated by killing Shiv Sena pramukh Mohammad Saleem. The Shiv Sena, which ruled Maharashtra along with the BJP from 1994 to 1999, is believed to have a soft corner for the â€˜Hindu Donâ€™. It is alleged that selective police action against the Dawood gangsters during the Shiv Sena regime and their elimination in encounters helped strengthen Rajanâ€™s position, just as Dawood himself had benefitted in the 1980s. The Sena laid bare its affection for Chota Rajan in an editorial in Saamna, its mouthpiece, edited by bal Thackeray. The editorial heaved a sigh of relief, attributing Chota rajanâ€™s survival to â€œgood fortuneâ€™â€™. Saamna alleges that Pakistani ISI was behind the move to kill Chota Rajan. In a lead story earlier this week, it claimed that the attack on Rajan was an ISI plan to eliminate â€œHindu Goondasâ€™â€™ so as to control the Mumbai underworld.