The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shakeel may be a fan: Salman

Mumbai, Jan. 7: Following in the footsteps of Shah Rukh Khan and Rakesh Roshan, Salman Khan became the 13th Bollywood star to turn hostile in the Bharat Shah case, in which the government is trying to nail the links between the film industry and the underworld.

The diamond merchant and film financier is the prime accused in the case which is also trying to prove that Shah, working on behalf of the mafia, helped dons Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel extort money from Bollywood stars and forced them to act in films financed by the cartel.

Salman, a prosecution witness, is believed to be one of the stars, apart from top guns like Shah Rukh and Rakesh Roshan, to have got the dreaded call from Shakeel. But like every other witness before him, the controversial actor denied ever having got a threat call from either Shakeel or any member of the Mumbai underworld.

“I did get a call from Shakeel on my cell phone twice in 2000,” Salman said, adding that they came once when he was in London and again, in Mumbai. “He (Shakeel) just said hello to me and he could have called as he may be a fan of mine,” Salman replied cheekily when the prosecution asked him about his association with the Dawood man.

Showing a glimpse of the brash and cocky Salman, the actor told the court: “Shakeel is a fan of mine but (mafia don) Abu Salem is an even bigger fan of mine.”

Salman is the first actor to say that he spoke to Shakeel knowingly, though he added that he called up only to say “assalam waleikum”. Roshan had earlier told the court that he came to know of the don only through the newspapers.

About the threats, Salman categorically said: “But I have received no such threat calls from anyone.” He also refused to identify accused Abdul Rahim Allah Buksh, who is believed to have carried Shakeel’s message to actors and producers in Mumbai.

Mumbai police’s contention is that Abdul Rahim was the courier from the underworld and he took up a job as an assistant with producer Nasim Rizvi as an alibi. Rizvi, too, is an accused in the case.

He has been charged with extorting money from film personalities at Shakeel’s behest.

Salman, who has clocked up many column inches of negative publicity, contradicted his earlier statement to the police in which he has allegedly said he received calls from the mafia asking him to give dates for the Bharat Shah-financed Chori Chori, Chupke Chupke. Mumbai police maintain Shakeel was behind the movie project.

The actor said he had heard of Dawood, but didn’t know him personally. However, on being shown a photograph in which he had posed with Noora, Dawood’s brother, Salman said: “Yes, I am in the photograph as I met Noora a few years back in Dubai when I dropped in to say hello to his (Noora’s) children.”

Salman follows a galaxy of stars who have been declared hostile by the court. Apart from Shah Rukh Khan and Rakesh Roshan, others who have refused to toe the police line — often with ridiculous excuses like they were drunk when Shakeel spoke to them and thus they could not remember anything — are Ratan Jain, Harish Sughand, Mahesh Manjrekar and Kaante director Sanjay Gupta.

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