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Dubai-Delhi deal on fugitives
- Dawood’s brother, carrying Indian passport, kept back in jail

Dubai, Feb. 13: Ravindra Rastogi, wanted in connection with the “duty drawback” scam, was deported to Mumbai after India and Dubai worked out a landmark deal last week which will govern their treatment of criminals and fugitives in the future.

Two of Rastogi’s accomplices in the case are being sent to India, it is learnt.

As part of this deal, Noora Ibrahim, a brother of mafia don Dawood Ibrahim, continues to languish in jail in Dubai. Several alleged criminals with Indian passports are also in jail with Noora.

Mustaqim, another brother of the don, was released along with his lieutenant, Ijaz Bhatki, after Pakistani consular officials here confirmed to Dubai authorities that they were Pakistani nationals and their Pakistani passports were genuine.

These two men have subsequently left for Karachi.

The deal, which was outlined by Dubai’s strongman Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid to Indian ambassador K.C. Singh last week, envisages speedy deportation of Indians wanted by New Delhi for economic offences.

Shaikh Mohammed said Dubai was willing to hand over to India anyone whose guilt could be convincingly made out to authorities in the emirate.

He cited the example of Imran Rehman Khan, an activist of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India, who was deported to India in January within a month of his arrival in the emirate.

Khan allegedly masterminded a bomb blast that killed two persons in Ghatkopar, Mumbai, on December 2 last year. He was handed over to India by Dubai police within weeks after a request was made by New Delhi to Dubai authorities for his arrest and deportation.

To prove Dubai’s bona fide in cooperating with India against terrorism, Shaikh Mohammed said he had ordered the closure last fortnight of the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s office in the emirate.

Long after the US proclaimed the Lashkar as a terrorist outfit and Pakistan banned its activities, Dubai had allowed a Lashkar office to function.

Lashkar activists in the emirate have now been rounded up and deported to Pakistan, thereby closing what was probably the last public window of the group, the Dubai strongman told the ambassador.

He also gave Singh a detailed briefing on what Dubai authorities had so far done in the war against terror, mostly working with American law enforcers.

Shaikh Mohammed, however, said India had failed to make a convincing case for any action against Dawood and some others.

He said what the Central Bureau of Investigation was touting as evidence of their involvement in the Mumbai serial bomb blasts in 1993 was only the testimony of witnesses in the custody of the authorities in Mumbai.

Such testimony lacked credibility since it was not freely given in court and could have been obtained under duress.

He defended the release of Mustaqim, Ijaz Bhatki and some others with Pakistani passports when Singh pointed out that they were Indians.

He said they may have been Indians at one time, but were now holding Pakistani passports, the validity of which had been confirmed by Pakistani consular officials in Dubai.

He said Noora and several others were still in jail because they had Indian passports, some of which had been revoked. Therefore, their cases were different.

Shaikh Mohammed retorted that if Singh’s argument was accepted, all Pakistanis who were born before August 14, 1947, and those who migrated from India since then could be considered Indian nationals.

The deal between Singh and Shaikh Mohammed, which may form the basis for future deportations, appears to have been prompted by the intervention of United Arab Emirates president and Abu Dhabi ruler Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan.

Shaikh Zayed was briefed in detail in December about India’s problems with Dubai by former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral, who was in Abu Dhabi to address a think tank.

Shaikh Zayed, who said he was unaware of these problems, immediately told his son, Shaikh Saif bin Zayed, in charge of law enforcement in Abu Dhabi, to take up the matter with Shaikh Mohammed.

Singificantly, the spate of recent arrests, including those of Noora and Mustaqim, was conducted by State Security, a federal agency, and not by Dubai police.

Shaikh Mohammed said all those now in jail who had committed crimes in Dubai, such as the recent murder of underworld operative Sharad Shetty, would first be tried in the emirate.

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