NEARLY 23 years after he fled the country, fugitive gangster Ejaz Lakdawala (50), wanted in connection with several extortion cases, was arrested by the Mumbai Police in Patna on Wednesday.
“The Mumbai Police achieved major success on Wednesday with the arrest of gangster Ejaz Lakdawala from Patna. There are at least 25 cases against him in the city, and over 80 complaints of extortion against him. Some more people who were afraid to complain against him earlier may now come forward. The operation was carried out with the help of Bihar Police and central agencies,” said Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Barve.
Lakdawala was brought to Mumbai and produced before a court, which sent him to police custody till January 21.
According to police, after gangster Ravi Pujari was held in Senegal last year, Lakdawala’s gang was the main group behind extortion calls to Mumbai-based builders and businessmen.
For the Mumbai Police Anti-Extortion Cell (AEC), the breakthrough came with the arrests of Lakdawala’s daughter last month, and his brother in April last year.
Giving details about how the police tracked him down, Ajay Sawant, in-charge of the AEC, said Lakdawala’s elder brother, Akhil, was arrested in April last year for allegedly demanding Rs 50 lakh from a Khar-based developer. “During Akhil’s interrogation, we came to know about Lakdawala’s Mumbai-based daughter. We found out details about her and issued a Look Out Circular (LOC) against her name,” he said.
“On December 28, when she was trying to leave the country on a forged passport, we got an alert from the airport authorities and arrested her,” said Sawant. Police said Lakdawala’s daughter was headed to Nepal, when she was arrested at the Mumbai airport.
“His daughter was travelling on a forged passport issued in the name of Sonia Manish Advani. Her actual name is Shifa Shahid Shaikh,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (law & order) Santosh Rastogi. “Following her interrogation, we found out that Lakdawala was to come to Patna on January 8. Accordingly, we laid a trap and arrested him,” he said.
“(We got) a clue about where the gangster was operating from based on what time of the day the (extortion) phone calls were made… Such permutations and combinations helped us track him to Nepal,” said a senior police officer.
Lakdawala, who was a resident of Jogeshwari in Mumbai, was a member of the Dawood Ibrahim gang. When the gang split, Lakdawala went with Chhota Rajan. In 1997, when he was lodged in Nashik Jail for allegedly killing a 1993-blast accused, he complained about feeling unwell and was taken to J J Hospital in Mumbai, from where he escaped and fled the country.
Since then, he is reported to have frequently changed countries — Malaysia, Thailand, Canada, Australia, US, UK, Ghana and Nepal.
In 2003, members of the Chhota Shakeel gang targeted him outside a mall in Bangkok. Reported to be dead at that time, Lakdawala, however, managed to survive the attack. In 2004, he was arrested in Ontario, following a Red Corner Notice (RCN) issued against him. He, however, contested the RCN and was released soon after.
Around 2007-08, he set up his own gang, which is suspected to be behind several extortion calls to businessmen and builders in Mumbai.
“He managed to remain on the run for over 23 years as he was extremely cautious about staying under the radar. He ensured that even his family members did not know the details of his passport, his current phone number etc. Even on his daughter’s mobile phone, we only found the internet number that he used to make extortion calls,” said a police officer.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said: “We are proud of the achievement of the Mumbai Police and are thinking of giving an award to the team that arrested Lakdawala.”