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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

From Dawood Hotel to cocaine stash: ED maps Iqbal Mirchi’s global network

While several properties have already been attached by the ED, sources said the agency has collected evidence of Mirchi’s multiple foreign passports, his banking channels and contacts in Pakistan.

Written by Ritu Sarin | New Delhi |
Updated: February 13, 2021 9:00:33 am
Iqbal MirchiIqbal Mirchi. (File)

More than two decades after the thriving narcotics and money laundering operations, run by now deceased underworld operative Iqbal Mirchi began to be busted, the Enforcement Directorate has recorded testimonies of his relatives and tracked down his alleged transactions to reveal details of his global network and “proceeds of crime.”

The result: a voluminous supplementary chargesheet presented before a Mumbai court which besides seven others, is learnt to have also named Dheeraj Wadhawan and Kapil Wadhawan, the Promoters/ Directors of DHFL. In 2010, they had purchased three “tainted” properties in Mumbai originally owned by the Mirchi clan.

While several properties have already been attached by the ED, sources said the agency has collected evidence of Mirchi’s multiple foreign passports, his banking channels and contacts in Pakistan.

The ED, sources said, has tracked down residences, hotels and offshore companies purchased from proceeds of smuggling. Some offshore entities listed by the ED, like Country Properties Limited, were incorporated by Mossack Fonseca and were flagged by The Indian Express as part of its investigation into The Panama Papers.

Among Mirchi relatives questioned by the ED last year is Abdul Kadar Merchant, Iqbal Mirchi’s older brother who has confessed that Mirchi began his illegal activities way back in 1970 by stealing goods from the Mumbai Dockyard and selling them in local markets.

He is said to have told investigators that Mirchi moved to Dubai to begin his drug cartel in 1993 and with handlers like distant relative, Pakistan-based Mahmood Ismail, used to procure consignments from that country or Afghanistan.

According to a witness statement of Nadeem Abdul Kader, the nephew of Iqbal Mirchi (a British citizen), he had been asked by his uncle to work in the hotel he bought in Dubai in 1990 called Imperial Suites. The ED has recorded how, according to Nadeem Kader, the hotel was known as “Dawood Hotel” and that he had seen Dawood visit the place on several occasions to meet Iqbal Mirchi.

Another incident recalled by Iqbal Mirchi’s nephew is about how during a visit to Mirchi’s godowns in Mumbai, one of the bales split open and he was shocked to find large bundles of US dollars concealed inside.

Jordanian national Mohammed Saleh Mahmood Saleh is said to have talked about how drugs were sold in foreign currency concealed in containers of used clothes. And liquor to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia concealed in oil tankers.

Once, while welding, a blast occurred and the consignment was caught at the Kuwait port. The Jordanian witness has admitted to meeting Dawood Ibrahim at the Dubai residence of Mirchi as has another witness, the then General Manager of Imperial Suites Hotel.

The global reach of Iqbal Mirchi’s smuggling network has also been revealed by another witness, Nasreen Farid Edroos, former wife of an associate of Iqbal Mirchi named Humayun Merchant.

They were both intercepted and detained in Hong Kong once with a consignment of opium, which, she was told, belonged to Iqbal Mirchi. She told the ED that Iqbal Mirchi used to run a mill in London, Eden Fine Rice, where her husband worked as a supervisor.

Once on a tour of the mill, a container of rice fell down and packets of white powder spilled with the rice. She was told the powder was cocaine and belonged to Mirchi.

The ED’s case is that Iqbal Mirchi’s money laundering operations commenced in 1986 and that, till date, proceeds of crime to the tune of Rs 216 crore have been identified.

This, in turn, was used by him and his family, including his wife, Hajra Iqbal Memon, and his sons, Asif Iqbal Memon and Junaid Iqbal Memon, to acquire properties valued at Rs 573 crore, some of which have already been attached.

A list of properties valued at Rs 225 crore has been provisionally attached in 2020. The supplementary chargesheet, sources said, has alleged that the three Mumbai properties purchased by Dheeraj Wadhawan for Rs 225 crore are also part of the proceeds of crime and that a sizeable part of the payments (Rs 154 crore) were sent to foreign entities controlled by Iqbal Mirchi via nonbanking channels.

The lawyer for Asif Memon – Iqbal Mirchi’s son — did not respond to questions sent by The Indian Express.

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