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Bollywood balks at belling mafia

Mumbai, Dec. 4: Producer Rakesh Roshan today turned into a “hostile” witness, adding to the legal reverses plaguing Mumbai police in the Bharat Shah case and hampering the government’s efforts to unravel the nexus between the film industry and the underworld.

Roshan, the 11th witness to turn hostile in the case, told a special court that he had never received any extortion threat from either Chhota Shakeel or Abu Salem. In a statement recorded before the police on December 17, 2000 — reportedly after the underworld threatened him — Roshan had said Shakeel had called him and demanded Rs 2 crore. It was also mentioned that Salem had asked for a similar amount.

Going against that statement, Roshan today said: “I had not paid any amount to Salem or Shakeel. They have not threatened me either.”

This comes a day after Shah Rukh Khan was declared hostile after he denied having spoken to Shakeel and refused to identify Rahim, who, he had earlier hinted, was Shakeel’s messenger.

In the case against the diamond merchant and film financier, the government has alleged that he, along with producer Nasim Rizvi, was working at the behest of the underworld and helping the dons extort money from Bollywood stars or forcing them to act in their films. The case against Shah and Rizvi has been filed in a special court dealing with the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.

Roshan told the court that he had received a call seeking dates for his son Hrithik. Though he admitted to having spoken to Shakeel on his cell phone at Rizvi’s behest, he said the request for dates was refused outright as Hrithik, on the threshold of super success after the phenomenal hit Kaho Naa… Pyar Hai, was “occupied” for the next three years.

Deposing before judge A.P. Bhangale, Roshan failed to identify the voices of Shakeel and Rizvi when the recorded audiotape was played in court.

Going a step further, Roshan said he had “no idea” who Shakeel or Salem was and that he was unaware if the mafia duo had any connection with the underworld. This was when public prosecutor Rohini Salian declared him “hostile”.

If the going has been tough for the government and Mumbai police in the Bharat Shah case, it has been tougher for Salian.

If Roshan was cagey, Shah Rukh was cocky. After the superstar had denied almost all of his recorded statement, Salian asked whether he would be scared if he got a call from the underworld. “I would be scared if I got a call from you,” Shah Rukh said.

During grilling, when the prosecution implied that he had proved his skills as an actor on the silver screen, Shah Rukh butt in: “If I may say so, I am the best actor in the world.”

The actor said he had no association with Shah apart from the fact that he was a business associate. He also denied having received his multi-crore bungalow at Bandra as a gift from Shah for his performance in Devdas.

Shah Rukh also refused to identify Rahim. In the statement to the police, he had said a person accompanying Rizvi had threatened him taking Shakeel’s name. Shah Rukh denied the incident.

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