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Shakeel fake tape slur on police

Mumbai, Sept. 18: Film financier Harish Sugandh, who is being grilled by a special court over an alleged conversation with gangster Chhota Shakeel, today charged Mumbai police with “framing” him and his three friends — Sunjay Dutt, Sanjay Gupta and Mahesh Manjrekar.

During cross-examination in court, Sugandh claimed that the police took “sample voices” of the four — believed to have spoken to the don for more than an hour from a hotel room in Nashik on November 14, 2000 — and superimposed the conversation on a tape. The transcripts were then publicised as conversations with Shakeel, he said.

“We were asked to read out a scribbled message on telephone which the police recorded,” Sugandh said, adding that they were asked to read portions of the transcripts “that figures in our alleged talks with Chhota Shakeel”.

He said it was possible that the tape played in court earlier and given to the media was the one with “our sample voices instead of the original”.

In the five-cornered conversation, which the police say is concrete evidence of the Bollywood quartet’s links with the don, Sugandh is heard passing on information to Shakeel about the good business of “Mission” (Mission Kashmir) along with inside information on the financing of Devdas.

The financier, a key witness in the case probing Bollywood’s links with the mafia, further said “dummies” were freely available in the film industry to record the voices of absent stars.

“The police could have used these dummy artistes to record the November 14 conversation we allegedly had with Shakeel,” he said.

Sugandh stressed that there was no way he could be involved in passing information on the industry to Shakeel. “Why should we help Shakeel' We have never done that,” he said, maintaining that he neither had any conversation with the don nor received any threats from the gangster.

He said it was not Shakeel but rival gangster Abu Salem who had threatened him at the time of Lagaan’s release. “In fact, both Aamir Khan and Ashutosh Gowariker (the director) have got police protection,” Sugandh said.

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