There is much to rejoice in the fact that Anees Ibrahim is in the hands of the United Arab Emirates police. He is among India’s most wanted criminals, responsible for a large number of murders and abductions, and alleged to be a key figure in the planning and executing of the 1993 blasts in Mumbai. He is also — and this is further cause for the Central Bureau of Investigation’s delight — Dawood Ibrahim’s brother and presumably the commanding business brain behind the finances of the “D company”. The stakes therefore are very high this time, higher than those during the arrests of Aftab Ansari, who allegedly masterminded the attack on the American Center in Calcutta, and Raju Anadkar, known to be a Dawood aide. The UAE handed over both these wanted men, as it did Muthappa Rai, wanted for more than 18 cases in Karnataka. The men were deported; India did not have to go through the lengthier extradition procedure for which the two countries have a treaty. After Anees Ibrahim’s arrest, therefore, hopes were up. There is an urgency here, and it does not have to do entirely with the political dividends the Bharatiya Janata Party will reap if Anees Ibrahim is brought to these shores. Dawood Ibrahim’s men are notoriously slippery, and the judicial process of extradition takes its time.
The CBI, however, could have hoped for deportation had it been surer of its ground. The failure to provide one of the basic markers of identification may cost dear. Apparently, the Mumbai police do not have Anees Ibrahim’s fingerprints. This is particularly embarrassing in view of the fact that this is not the first time the man is being caught in the same region. Earlier, he had to be freed for lack of evidence. Whatever the role of the Interpol red-corner notice in the arrest of Anees Ibrahim, it is very clear that the American police have been extremely active in making identification possible. This is not only because the United States of America takes its leading part in the anti-terror coalition very seriously — which it does — or because it has become especially sensitive to India’s concerns after September 11, but also because some American investigators believe that al Qaida is using Dawood Ibrahim’s men on a mercenary basis. It is equally important that terrorist networks feel the net closing in from all sides. All this makes it essential that India persuade the UAE to hand over Anees Ibrahim, by extradition if the request for deportation fails. Neither can the CBI forget that Abu Salem, accused in the blasts case, has not been deported by the Portuguese authorities after being arrested in September. In Anees Ibrahim’s case, the CBI will have to see whether it is lucky this time.