FOR a man believed to have actually kickstarted the execution of the 1993 serial blasts conspiracy by smuggling arms and explosives into Maharashtra, Mustafa Ahmed Umar Dossa, known as Majnu for his rumoured liaisons with women, is said to have played the part of a powerful underworld figure through the 14 years he spent in custody as an undertrial. From reports of his generous sheer-korma parties for Arthur Road jail inmates on Eid to those of young women ‘auditioning’ on court premises for a job at his Dubai jewellery store, Dossa had the air of a don. But there was no machismo on display when he was sentenced earlier this month, on charges that attract the death sentence.
A little over a week ago, even as fellow convict Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan sobbed in the witness box pleading to be given life imprisonment and not the death penalty, Dossa raised his hand. He wanted to say something to special Judge GA Sanap. The judge told him he’d get his turn to speak later, but Dossa was later heard enquiring with his advocates about the death penalty. Specifically, he was heard asking if the death would be by hanging or whether there would be an option of facing a firing squad. His question to the judge remains unasked.
On Tuesday, special CBI counsel Deepak Salvi told the court that Dossa’s role in the 1993 blasts was “more severe” than that was played by Yakub Memon, who was hanged on July 30, 2015. The charges Dossa was convicted under were similar. Close aides say Dossa was prepared to hear the worst, and was readying to contest the sentence before the Supreme Court.
Since the trial began in the Mumbai 1993 serial blasts case in 2012, Dossa has been a regular fixture in the Mumbai district city civil and sessions court. Usually sitting outside the special TADA court, at one end of the corridor, he would be conducting meetings with associates, smoking a cigarette, occasionally meeting a woman.
In 2007, when a senior Mumbai Police officer was to interrogate Dossa in Arthur Road jail, to his surprise, the former gangster summoned cronies and, in a jiffy, chairs and cups of tea emerged. “There is no doubt that inside Arthur Road jail, Dossa was the king. He used to call the shots,” said the officer who did not wish to be identified.
In 2015, the Mumbai Police began a probe on allegations made by a model claiming that she and two other girls were selected for a job at a Dubai jewellery store after auditions conducted by Dossa on the court premises. Women coming to meet Dossa would also sometimes offer food to policemen guarding him, which they always refused.
According to sources, these “meetings” with women had prompted Dossa’s wife to approach the court seeking that he be disallowed from meeting anyone apart from his advocates. The plea was eventually not admitted, but the allegations against Dossa did not end.
In January, when Dossa was being taken to Porbandar for a court hearing, he allegedly managed to convince a police escort team to allow a woman to travel with him in the train. While the criminal cases against Dossa will be abated following his death, the inquiry into that case pertaining to negligence on the part of the escort team will continue.
According to another source, his wife, who handles his businesses in Dubai, had stopped visiting him for some time. “It was only on the day of his conviction that she came to meet him,” said the source.
The reports around Dossa’s alleged behaviour also led the court to once disallow him from coming to court. For over a month around August 2016, Dossa attended proceedings only through video-conferencing, where he would be seen pleading with advocates to convince the court to allow him his court outings.
Born into a family of oil merchants, Dossa has two brothers, Mohammed and Haroon. In the early 1970s, when smuggler Haji Mohammed is believed to have identified and groomed Dawood Ibrahim, he had also simultaneously mentored Mohammed Dossa, Mustafa’s elder brother. Mustafa, who idolised his brother, followed suit.
In the 1980s, when Dawood fled Mumbai amid a bitter gang war in the financial capital, Mustafa followed suit, leaving for the UAE in 1988. The Dossa family later purchased a property near Crawford Market in Mumbai and turned it into an electronic goods market, dumping smuggled goods there. “The brothers were big time into electronics smuggling. They made a fortune out of it,” said one of the investigators.
In fact, it was a woman who was the cause of Mustafa’s friendship with absconding Tiger Memon turning sour — Dossa reportedly tried to flirt with a woman whom Tiger was dating, a bar-girl named Roma. According to retired policemen, Roma once tried to reach Tiger on the phone and Dossa who answered attempted to flirt with her. Word reached Tiger and soon the two pulled out revolvers and others had to intervene.
“That evening, Tiger called off his business dealings with Dossa,” recalled the officer.
Former investigators recall that Dawood is believed to have offered to rehabilitate Dossa in Pakistan, but he refused, preferring not to live under the shadow of the ISI.