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Anees and Ottavio walk away

New Delhi, Dec. 13: In a double blow to the Central Bureau of Investigation, Bombay blast accused Anees Ibrahim was given bail in Dubai and a Malaysian court threw out the request for extradition of Ottavio Quattrocchi, allegedly a Bofors kickback recipient.

While the Quattrocchi setback was expected, last night’s grant of bail to Anees, brother of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, came as a shock to the CBI, whose hopes had risen after the United Arab Emirates for the first time showed signs of entertaining its request for extradition.

Anees is believed to have been given bail in an extortion case, adding to the confusion around his arrest early this month. First, it was thought he had been arrested for travelling with forged papers. Then Dubai police said they were holding him on a murder charge.

Details of the conditions on which he was given bail were not known, one reason being that today was a holiday in Dubai. What the Indian authorities are most exercised about is whether or not he has slipped out of the Emirates.

“We are not worried about Anees getting bail so long as he remains in that country. But it’s a different story if he has landed in Karachi,” a government official said.

CBI official A.K. Gupta, who had been sent to Dubai after Anees’ arrest, quietly returned to Delhi this afternoon. Neither the CBI nor the Indian embassy in the UAE has been officially informed by the Dubai authorities of the development.

Till late this evening, the government was busy just piecing the news together.

Grant of bail is being interpreted here as indication that the Dubai authorities were unwilling to engage in any process which facilitates Anees’ handover to India.

CBI sources said that a few days ago, they had sent to Dubai a request for “provisional arrest”, which means Anees should be kept behind bars till papers seeking extradition reach the authorities there. But it seems the request has been turned down.

Anees had been arrested before, too, in 1998 — also on a murder charge — but was allowed to walk away for lack of evidence. It was the same case as the one now cited by Dubai police: the killing of Irfan Goga, also a gangster and an Indian national.

A senior CBI officer said had the Dubai authorities been interested in holding Anees in custody, they would have opposed his bail in court since an international alert was pending against him. It is not known, however, what stand Dubai police took in court.

Government officials said the buzz in the underworld suggested Anees had already fled Dubai for Karachi, in which case extradition proceedings would cease to hold meaning.

The development has shattered CBI’s optimism that it was making progress in the case as the Abu Dhabi Interpol had faxed a letter to its counterpart in Delhi on Thursday, saying Anees’ extradition request be sent immediately.

CBI director P.C. Sharma, who was huddled in meetings since afternoon, had earlier told reporters that a deportation request was already pending with the Emirates. He said the agency was also moving an extradition request.

He had expressed hope that a “healthy trend of exchanging criminals between the two countries would continue uninterrupted”.

The bail is not entirely unexpected, though, given the fact that Dubai has been resenting the pressure brought to bear on it by India for Anees’ handover. The Americans are also believed to have played a role in his arrest.

In the Quattrocchi case, the Malaysian High Court rejected the CBI’s extradition request, saying the offences alleged were “open to doubt”.

The CBI has appealed to a higher court.

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