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Salem in custody again with starlet

Sept. 20: Underworld don Abu Salem, an accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, was arrested in Lisbon by Portuguese police on Wednesday along with a starlet for travelling with false papers.

Officials said since Salem is an Indian citizen who had been caught abroad with fake documents, having him deported from Portugal should not be a legal headache. “If we can bring him back for interrogation, a lot of things will fall into place,” an official said.

Red-corner notices for the arrest of eight suspects, including mastermind Dawood Ibrahim, in the Mumbai blasts case were issued several years ago, but no one has been caught yet, though there were some close shaves.

Salem was detained in Sharjah last November, but could not be brought to India for a variety of reasons, one being bungling by the government.

For several days, he was held in the hotel where he had put up with small-time actress Monica Bedi, who was his companion this time, too, when Portuguese police caught up with him. Salem is said to have business interests in Portugal.

A CBI team will leave for Lisbon shortly. CBI director P.C. Sharma briefed deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani this evening.

India does not have an extradition treaty with Portugal, but officials here are confident of cooperation from Lisbon.

Deportation is an easier object to achieve since Portugal, being a member of the European Union which is opposed to capital punishment, might not feel comfortable extraditing an offender who could face the death penalty at home.

Delhi is optimistic of success also because almost all countries have become a lot more helpful on such issues since the September 11 terror strikes.

Once Dawood’s right-hand man, Salem moved away from the don later. He figured in the tapes of a purported conversation between actor Sunjay Dutt and underworld don Chhota Shakeel, where he was referred to as chikna. He was allegedly making obscene calls to actress Karisma Kapoor.

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