May 30, 2020
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East West Airlines—another link in the chain

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Though East West Airlines has been officially denying underworld links, the MHA report to the Vohra Committee alleges otherwise. The report says Naziruddin Abdul Wahid, a former Bahrain-based NRI who is on the board of the airline, had "close business links with Dawood Ibrahim".

The report notes that as early as 1991 there were indications of a nexus between the airline and Dawood. While investigating a Rs 9 crore transaction involving East West Travel Agency, a sister concern of the airline, the CBI picked up Ahmed, an employee, for interrogation. He admitted that "sometime" in 1991, he received a message from "Bhai (Dawood) for delivering five petties (Rs 5 crore) to some people related to East West Airlines".

The report identifies Shakilur Rahman, "a politician related to the Janata Dal, Delhi", as the conduit for funnelling money to East West Airlines "through (late) Thakiyuddin Wahid." The report also alleges that Thakiyuddin was "helped to raise money by the (then) cabinet secretary through Dena Bank, Allahabad Bank, and through Mahadevan of State Bank of India".

Secret inquiries, the report adds, revealed that a person "close to the late Rajiv Gandhi (who had) worked as his personal secretary had helped East West Airlines raise funds from people close to the late prime minister: particularly one, who is a minister of state in the Central government. Incidentally, the brother-in-law of the person close to Rajiv Gandhi now heads the East West office in Delhi."

The inquiries also brought to light that "a brother of an important advisor of the Prime Minister (Narasimha Rao) who is now in Dubai had also acted as a conduit for funding East West by Dawood Ibrahim and gang."

East West was also investigated by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Bombay, for importing aircraft over seven years old. However, the probe was dropped by the additional director general, foreign trade. The airline also attracted the attention of the CBI for ticketing irregularities and for providing tickets on behalf of Dawood to those invited by him for a cricket match in Sharjah.

While the report states that chargesheets were not filed against East West because of "lack of clinching evidence", the CBI had submitted a preliminary report to the Government.

Interestingly, MHA sources revealed to this magazine, that in 1994 the ministry vide its internal security order had ordered the Government to take over the airline. Officials of two other ministries—civil aviation and finance—had recommended the same thing. No action was taken.

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