EVEN as Abu Salem, 48, was pronounced guilty by TADA court judge G A Sanap, the gangster appeared unperturbed, busy scribbling notes on a sheet of paper. Unarguably the most famous undertrial in Mumbai’s City Civil and District Sessions court complex, where the TADA courtroom is located, the colourful underworld personality, who is said to have once lorded over Bollywood, struck by its glamour and money, remained aloof — as he has been through the entire trial, talking to almost nobody.
The court ruled that Salem, who was extradited from Portugal and arrested on November 11, 2005, had taken it upon himself to bring some part of the arms and ammunition smuggled into India by Mustafa Dossa, Firoz Khan and others. It also said Salem had transported and concealed the weapons in various places.
Salem is already serving a life term for the murder of Mumbai builder Pradeep Jain, and a close aide said his appeal before the Portugal authorities remained pending. Also pending is an application filed by Salem seeking permission from the trial court to marry a woman from Mumbra, near Mumbai, after it was reported that the two got married on a train en route to Uttar Pradesh where Salem was being taken for a court hearing in 2014. The woman wrote to the court pleading that she be allowed to marry Salem as she had been “defamed” by her reported marriage to the gangster on the train. Salem, too, agreed to the ‘proposal’ to ‘rescue’ the girl from further trauma. The court is yet to decide on the plea.
It was in fact Salem’s first love that would lead to his eventual extradition. In 1991, the DN Nagar police station in suburban Mumbai received a complaint from the mother of a minor girl accusing Salem of abducting his daughter. The girl rescued by the police, Sameera Jumani, went on to become Salem’s first wife a short while later.
“The girl used to study at Bhavan’s College. We got an input that Salem was hiding at a market complex near the college. The team raided the complex. Much to our surprise, Salem was petrified on seeing the policemen. He surrendered quietly,” said an officer who was with that team. “This was the first time the police arrested Salem. As a part of the procedure we had collected his fingerprints,” he added.
Eventually, those fingerprints helped the CBI bag his extradition. With the gangster having undergone plastic surgery in Portugal, it was the fingerprints collected by the Mumbai Police that served as a clinching evidence in establishing his identity after he was detained in Portugal’s capital city Lisbon in 2002.
Salem had a scuffle with co-accused Mustafa Dossa in Arthur Road jail in 2010, leading to Salem being shifted to Taloja Prison. “Does your bhai (Salem) wear shirts made out of the curtains of your house,” Dossa was once heard asking one of Salem’s men on the gangster’s sartorial choice.