Pawar's Time Of Reckoning

Secret papers allege that the Maharashtra politician had links with hawala agents close to Dawood
Pawar's Time Of Reckoning
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The Nexus
After the 1993 Bombay blasts, the Home Ministry collected considerable information on the links between Congress politicians and the underworld. The details of this investigation were submitted to the Vohra Committee. Excerpts:

Underworld Operator Political/Bureaucratic Patronage

Maharashtra

  • Dawood Ibrahim : Sharad Pawar, Salim Zakaria, Javed Khan (both ex-ministers close to Pawar)
  • Mohammed Dosa : Madan Baffna (ex-minister)
  • P. Raj Koli : Arun Mehta (former home minister)
  • Haji Ahmed : D.V. Patil, Javed
  • Khan Khan Brothers : Arun Mehta, Salim Zakaria (ex-ministers)
  • Tiger Memon: Javed Khan

Gujarat

  • Abdul Latif : Chimanbhai Patel (ex-chief minister)
  • Rati Lal Deva Navik : Cadir Peerjada ( PCC vice-president),
  • Izzu Sheikh, Haji : Ahmed Patel, AICC general secretary
  • Hassana Dada : C.D. Patel (home minister), Thakor Nair (supply minister).
  • Amar Subhania : Chimanbhai Patel
  • Ram Bhai Gadwai : Ashok Lal (" s/o Babu Lal, minister of sports") Santosheben Jadeja, MLA: "Earlier of Janata Dal. Joined Congress. Known as mafia queen."

Just last year they had called it a damp squib. Now it looks like another political tinderbox, awaiting ignition. In mid-1995, when the N.N. Vohra Committee report on the criminal-politician nexus was tabled in Parliament, the Opposition was united in heaping scorn on it. The perception was that the 12-page report was incomplete and politically sensitive information had been suppressed. Months later, after the episode had receded from public memory, there is evidence to confirm that suspicion. Some documents submitted to the committee by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and procured by Outlook reveal shocking charges of the murky link between prominent politicians and the underworld.

The MHA report alleges that there was a definite nexus between underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's associates and former Maharashtra chief minister Sharad Pawar. According to the report, Mool Chand Shah alias Choksi—a hawala racketeer also involved in the Jain case and "close to Dawood Ibrahim and gang"—had, on various occasions between December 1979 and October 1992,transferred or paid Rs 72 crore to Pawar. Many other Congress leaders have also been listed as recipients of money from Shah.

The report states that "between December 1979 and February 1980, MoolChand Choksi paid Rs 7 crore to Sharad Pawar, which was received from an undisclosed source in the West". It also confirms that Choksi had "developed closeness" with Dawood and his gang way back in 1980. Shah was also responsible for transferring money for "various important people of Bombay to the Middle-East and other countries for safe caching".

Choksi is said to have paid another instalment of Rs 5 crore around May 1991 to Pawar. According to the report, "the amount was reportedly transferred from a Middle-Eastern country through the hawala channel. Reportedly, the above amounts were paid for election purposes". Shah not only provided Pawar with funds for elections but was also used by the latter to siphon money abroad. Says the report: "On behalf of the chief minister of Maharashtra, Pappu Kalyani (Kalani) had handed over Rs 20 crore to Cho-ksi in September 1990 for transferring abroad. Another amount of Rs 50 crore was transferred by Choksi on behalf of the chief minister." The deal was executed through an advocate.

The report says that Choksi had been in constant touch with Pawar till a few months before the Bombay blasts. A major transaction of Rs 10 crore allegedly took place in October 1992. In this transaction, say the documents, "Choksi delivered an amount of Rs 10 crore to the nephew of Sharad Pawar. The amount had reportedly come from the Middle-East." Shah was arrested under TADA on May 4, 1993, for funding Tiger Memon with Rs 2.5 crore for the blasts.

During the interrogation of Usman Ghani, an accused in the Bombay blasts case, it was revealed that he had established contacts with the glitterati of Bombay for siphoning their black money through the hawala conduit to foreign accounts. The report names "a very top politician of Bombay" apart from a few film stars. "Some of the important personalities whose money he (Ghani) transacted are Dilip Kumar, Feroz Khan and one Banerjee, an advocate of Bombay, who is reported to be very close to a very top politician of Bombay."

Hawala operators like Choksi mentioned in the MHA report are also involved in the new multi-crore Jain hawala scandal. Apart from Shah, the name of a Delhi-based hawala dealer, Shambhu Dayal Sharma alias Guptaji, figures in the report. It was Sharma's arrest in 1991 and his subsequent interrogation which led the CBI to raid J.K. Jain's residence, where it stumbled across the now-famous diaries. Sharma had told the CBI that he used to work for J.K Jain. The MHA reports say that Sharma had been funnelling money to politicians for over a decade.

Sharma's name first came to the notice of the authorities in May 1985 when he allegedly acted as a conduit for Choksi in a Rs 3-crore payoff to Arun Nehru, the then internal security minister.

Inquiries made by the Government agencies, on which the MHA report is based, reveals that Mool Chand Shah lived in 604, Rajendra Vihar, Guildern Lane, Lamington Road in Bombay. The hawala kingpin hails from Dhinmal village in Jalore district, Rajasthan. His father migrated to Bombay and tried his hand at the textile business. Later, the Shahs switched to the diamond trade.

Choksi's underworld activities aroused enough curiosity to prompt investigations by various agencies. But he managed to skip the dragnet of the law, thanks to his political clout. In March 1989, a detention order—No. SPL 3(A)PSA 0189/107 under COFEPOSA was issued against him. But this order was "revoked by the Government of Maharashtra" on May 10, 1990, "without assigning any reason".

The MHA report points out that "the revocation was done at the behest of the Home Minister of the Ruling Party (sic)," Arun Mehta, a close Pawar confidant. "For this action, Arun Mehta and other politicians were paid Rs 2 crore by Choksi," it notes.

The Enforcement Directorate and the Marine and Preventive Wing of the Customs, Bombay, also registered cases against Choksi in 1989 and 1990 respectively. He was arrested on November 30, 1990, in connection with one of the cases but was immediately released on bail. A development which the report clearly ascribes to his political connections. "Every time he procured his bail either on technical grounds through his lawyers or through money power."

It is also admitted that Choksi could never be interrogated at length because of the fact that he had "sympathisers" at the Centre and in the state government. He was held again in April 1991 following Sharma's arrest in connection with "an international conspiracy of funding terrorist organisations in Kashmir". Even when he was being interrogated by the Bombay police, Choksi used to claim that he could not be kept under detention for long because of his "high political connection". The report says: "He was dropping the name of Chandra Shekhar, former Prime Minister, in this connection."

A part of Dawood's operations were based in Gujarat, particularly along the coast. The MHA report also lists politi-cians from the state who had links with the underworld. Among those named is the then chief minister, late Chimanbhai Patel, and AICC General Secretary Ahmed Patel ( see box ).

The report, had it been tabled in Parliament along with the much-maligned Vohra panel report, would have fulfilled the objective set before it when it was constituted on July 9, 1993. After the Bombay blasts, when the then internal security minister Rajesh Pilot ordered that the committee be set up, it was asked "to take stock of all available information about the activities of crime syndicate/mafia organisations which had developed links with and were being protected by Government functionaries and political personalities."

The Vohra Committee had the information but no one in the Congress wanted it to see the light of day. The procrastinations that followed resulted in the 12 pages of generalities that has now come into the open and nothing specific about the vicious nexus in operation in three countries.

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