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ATS has no clue on motorcyclist who delivered ‘hawala money’ in Pune

Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad yet to trace illegal money transaction trail

Police investigation has revealed that a motorcyclist had handed over “hawala” money of Rs 3 lakh to the alleged perpetrators of the J M Road serial blasts in Pune.

But,even a year after the August 1 blasts,investigators are clueless about the trail of the money,although eight arrests have so far been made in the case.

“It is clear the money for the terror attack came through the hawala channel. During their interrogation,the persons arrested in the J M Road blast case have told us that a man on a two-wheeler handed over Rs 3 lakh to them in Pune. But we are yet to identify this man and the operators behind this transfer of cash. It is one of the most important missing links in the case,” said a senior officer,who is a member of the investigation team.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had questioned several people for their alleged links with the local and international hawala rackets,but got no clues about this particular transaction.

The Special Cell of Delhi Police had arrested four suspects — Imran Khan Wajid Pathan of Nanded,Irfan Mushtaq Landge (32) of Ahmednagar,Asad Khan Jamshedali Khan (33) of Aurangabad and Firoz alias Humza Abdul Hameed Sayyed (38),resident of Shukrawar Peth in Pune — between September 26 and October 9,2012,for their alleged involvement in terror activities.

According to police investigation,these four persons were involved in the J M Road blasts and that this act of terror was carried out to avenge the murder of IM operative Qateel Siddiqui by gangster Sharad Mohol in Yerawada jail on June 6,2012. Later on December 20,the ATS arrested them.

During investigation,ATS arrested four more suspects,including Munib Iqbal Memon (32) of Kondhwa,Farooq Shaukat Bagwan (32) of Ghorpade Peth in Pune,Sayyed Aarif alias Kaashif Sayyed Jafaruddin Biyabani (32) of Aurangabad and Aslam Shabbir Shaikh alias Bunty Jahagirdar (40) of Ahmednagar for their links to the case. The ATS on April 30,2013,filed a chargesheet against the suspects. Five persons — Riyaz Bhatkal,Iqbal Bhatkal,their aides Shakir alias Asadullah Akhtar alias Javed alias Tabrej,Ahmed alias Wakas and LeT operative Fayyaz Kagzi — have been named in it.

Investigators believe that terror suspects received the hawala money in Pune on specific instructions from Riyaz Bhatkal for the attack. Bhatkal had maintained contact with some of the perpetrators through online chats. He had given specific tasks to these persons according to which Asad Khan was made the “AMIR’ (leader) of the group. His responsibility was to supervise the actions and keep track of money coming through hawala. Imran was made “Head” of outdoor work and assisted by Irfan and Firoz. Meanwhile,Biyabani assisted in circulating jihadi literature and provided logistic support. Bunty Jahagirdar provided arms and ammunition. Bagwan was given the task of preparing forged documents. Munib Memon was responsible for purchasing SIM cards using these forged documents as identification.

Investigators say that suspects used hawala money for arranging a safe house,bicycles,buying cell phones,fire arms,explosives and other items for assembling six bombs that were planted at six different spots on J M Road on August 1,2012.

Five bombs went off with low intensity and one was diffused by bomb detection and disposal squad (BDDS) between 7.25 pm and 11.30 pm. Only one person identified as Dayanand Patil was injured in the blasts. Investigators believe that bombs did not go off with more intensity due to rain showers.

According to an officer,funds for the terror attack were arranged through hawala channels and that Bhatkal,a place in Karnataka,which is the hometown of Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal,is known for being a centre for gold smuggling and has been on the radar of investigative agencies for alleged hawala links for several years now.

It may be noted that in October 2011,three garment traders from Karnataka,including one Noor Moinuddin Bappa of Bhatkal,were arrested at the Pune International Airport for allegedly smuggling gold. A team from the Pune unit of the ATS had then gone to Bhatkal to probe whether the gold smuggling racket had any hawala or terror links. The ATS,however,found nothing significant to report. But it also claimed to have found clues during the investigation of 13/7 Mumbai blasts of 2011 that led to the arrest of alleged hawala operator Kawalnayan Pathreja.

According to ATS,Pathreja was in touch with accused persons Muzaffar Kola,a native of Bhatkal,Ubed,Farooq and Yasin Bhatkal. Kola is believed to have a strong connection with the hawala racketeers in the Middle East.

He allegedly delivered Rs 10 lakh through Pathreja for one Shivanand in Delhi. ATS claims that Shivanand was none other than IM operative Yasin Bhatkal. Pathreja allegedly had instructions through phone calls from Dubai to hand over the money to Shivanand. Pathreja was released on bail by Bombay High Court in June this year.

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