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Once-bitten cops in dossier dash

Mumbai, Sept. 22: Mumbai police are working at a frenetic pace to prepare a foolproof dossier on mafia don Abu Salem to present before authorities in Portugal because they want to get it right this time.

Salem — wanted for his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai riots and for the murder of music mogul Gulshan Kumar in 1997 — went scot free despite being detained in Sharjah on September 24 last year as Indian authorities could not produce the required identification details in the UAE.

“We will have a tighter case against him this time because what happened last time shouldn’t recur,” said Maharashtra home minister Kripa Shanker Singh. Aware of the “victory” in sight, he added: “There shouldn’t be any delays like the last time. We are making all information available (on Salem) to the CBI, the Union home ministry and whoever (else) wants it.”

Overseeing the process of tying up the loose ends is joint police commissioner S. Vagal, who says the relevant documents and fingerprints have already been passed on to Interpol.

The police are waiting to lay their hands on Salem, desperate to make amends for the Mohammad Afroze fiasco and the J.W. Singh case, when the police’s arguments against the “accused” rang hollow in court.

The underworld kingpin is wanted in more than 50 serious offences, mostly murder, assault, gunrunning and extortion.

“We want Salem in our custody,” says Vagal. “We will interrogate him and establish the various nexus he had. We are making all efforts to get him in custody.” Mumbai police are ready to send a special team to Portugal to accompany the Central team, which might leave for Lisbon on Monday “if the need arises”.

The police will also examine the role of Salem’s companion, Bollywood starlet Monica Bedi, for the first time.

“We will be probing Bedi’s exact involvement and her role in supplying information about the underworld to Salem,” Vagal says.

“Salem’s arrest will be a major setback to his activities in Mumbai, where he has spread his network since the early 90s. Bollywood can heave a sigh of relief after the threat calls from him stop,” he added. With the gunning down of four key Salem gang members in August, the police feel it would mean the end of “the Abu Salem brand name”.

Salem went solo in 1998 following his split from the Dawood Ibrahim gang, spreading his networks to Africa, the United Kingdom, USA and Portugal, besides Mumbai. But extortion from Bollywood remained a very significant source of his income. He recently told an Indian TV channel that he had invested around Rs 47 crore in Bharat Shah’s Devdas, giving a fillip to rumours that he had a finger in the Bollywood production pie.

The Mumbai police are elated. “Most of his foot soldiers have been eliminated, the gang will soon see its end,” Vagal said. The Bhopal police, too, have stepped up their campaign against Salem and Bedi, issuing warrants against both for passport forgery and murder.

Salem is believed to maintain a hit list containing the names of 50 Bollywood personalities, who refused to pay his ransom demands, including Rakesh Roshan, Rajiv Rai, Ashutosh Gowarikar, Aamir Khan, Jhamu Sugandh, Manisha Koirala and Manmohan Shetty.

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