Mumbai Local

D-syndicate has finger in Mumbai’s Rs.4,000-crore redevelopment pie

Dawood’s associates are deploying their goons to intimidate residents of Bhendi Bazaar. Photo: Special Arrangement

Dawood’s associates are deploying their goons to intimidate residents of Bhendi Bazaar. Photo: Special Arrangement  

The congested Bhendi Bazaar area of south Mumbai is witnessing India’s largest urban redevelopment programme, with crowded streets and dilapidated buildings giving way to a planned urban centre. The Rs.4,000-crore project, handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a showcase smart city project in July 2015, will transform a chaotic and unplanned south Mumbai community into organised modern living and shopping destination.

The project, however, also captures how the Dawood Ibrahim gang continues to flourish in the city more than two decades after he carried out the 1993 serial blasts in the commercial capital and took refuge in Pakistan, according to numerous official documents and many sources accessed by The Hindu. In a detailed investigation, almost fully based on technical surveillance details from various agencies, The Hindu has concluded that the powerful criminal syndicate continues to play a crucial role in many segments of Mumbai’s economy, despite the Indian security establishment dedicating much resource and personnel to Indian state’s enemy No 1.

The intercepts show no connection or communication between the trustees of the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), which oversees the project, and the underworld.

When contacted, an SBUT official said: “At the heart of the project are its people and upliftment of their lives. The trust is, therefore, extremely sensitive about its tenants and are engaging with them in a timely and efficient manner. Information centres are set up to educate the tenants on the project and handhold them at all stages,” the officials said.

He said the SBUT had already relocated 1,700 families and over 400 businesses to state-of-the-art transit accommodations or on rentals. “The project has not only gained tremendous trust and faith among its tenants, but also recognised by the government of India as a National Best Practice Project.”

Intercepts show how Dawood Ibrahim and several of his family members, as well as his key aide Chhota Shakeel, through their proxies, have major interests in the project. Unknown to SBUT officials, Dawood’s associates are involved in obtaining consent of residents of Bhendi Bazaar, deploying their goons to intimidate recalcitrant residents, executing some of the projects such as demolitions through proxies, and in recent years have been dedicating a significant part of their time to their activities surrounding the massive project in the heart of South Mumbai.

The SBUT official said: “Being a public trust, the project is being carried forward with complete professionalism, transparency and as per the applicable law. There is no question of the trust being associated with any anti-social elements. We categorically and vehemently deny the allegations.”

The project is to come up on over 16.5 acres between Mohammed Ali Road and Nagpada. It is close to Temkar Street, where Dawood grew up. It has a few thousands housing units, over 1,250 shops and offices, and 250 buildings. It is home to over 20,000 people. Once the project started in 2009, intelligence agencies have been receiving a stream of intercepts from Pakistan, the UAE and Mumbai, between key members of the Dawood gang, detailing how they are deeply involved in the project through various proxies.

“It has been clear for some time that the gang has deep interests in the project, and several of his associates are involved in it as proxies,” one source told The Hindu.

Tellingly, the rare reliable inputs of Dawood’s personal dealings also show his active interest in the project. His brother Iqbal Kaskar, brother-in-law Saud who is married to Dawood’s sister Farzana, and his sister Haseena Parkar’s son Alishah are all involved somehow in the project, the intercepts show. It is not clear, though, whether the involvement is with the officials involved in the project.

However, it is Chhota Shakeel, Dawood’s key aide, who seems to control the operation. A stream of inputs shows that Shakeel controls most of the activities mostly through the UAE, from where the D Company controls most of its Indian operations.

According to the intercepts, Shakeel is involved in the proposed demolition and redevelopment of the Musafir Khana building at 33, Pakmodia Street in Bhendi Bazaar, where Dawood and family once lived. He is also closely involved in the developments around Damarwala building, which is among the 11 properties of Dawood attached by the Income Tax Department in 2001. The I-T Department’s efforts to sell off the property have yet not succeeded, but intercepts show that the Dawood gang is actively involved in its possible demolition and redevelopment.

According to other inputs, two close relatives of Shakeel are closely involved in the project as proxies for the underworld operative. Through at least one of these proxies, the intercepts say, Shakeel has deployed several criminals to threaten shopkeepers and residents opposed to the project. In the intercepts, the gang actively discusses people signing up for the project, the need to maintain secrecy, and the need for local political support for the project.

The SBUT official told The Hindu that the trust was not aware of any relatives of the underworld gangsters working as part of the project. He also denied SBUT tenders and contracts thus far given have been awarded to any underworld proxies. “We have just started the piling work in a small section of the project but that too has been given to a small-time contractor.”

In February 2014, according to the intercepts, Chhota Shakeel and his associates were discussing ways to deal with a person in a property with 215 occupants, who was preventing others from giving their consent for the property’s procurement. In the same month, Shakeel is informed by one of his UAE associates that they are sending their boys to Bohri Mohalla and other localities of Bhendi Bazaar and Chakala in Andheri to threaten occupants in different addresses and telling them to talk to “bhai”.

The details in The Hindu investigation are in contrast to the seeming silence of the local residents of Bhendi Bazaar and local officials on the possible involvement of the underworld in the prestigious project.

There is no police case filed against the underworld gang for intimidation or other criminal efforts to support the project, senior Mumbai police officials told The Hindu. “We did get tip-offs about such harassment a short while ago and approached the people concerned, but they said they did not want to involve the police, and would rather let the SBUT deal with the matter,” said a senior Mumbai Police officer.

A Mumbai Police Crime Branch officer confirmed that they have been receiving ground-level intelligence indicating “a very strong possibility” of Dawood’s involvement. He said they were tracking the involvement of one ‘Salim Fruit,’ a relative of Shakeel who is said to be key middlemen in various deals in the project area.

This is the third part of the six-part series on Dawood Ibrahim's crime syndicate. Read >part 1 and >part 2 here.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 11:33:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/dsyndicate-has-finger-in-mumbais-rs4000crore-redevelopment-pie/article7950131.ece

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