| Monica: Noose tightens
Hyderabad, Nov. 17: Monica Bedi’s lonely life in a women’s jail has been cut short.
A designated CBI court in Hyderabad today conceded the agency’s request for her custody in a passport forgery case, but only for two days instead of the five it had sought.
The former model and small-time actor had in August 2001 secured a passport under a fictitious name from Kurnool district. The agency’s lawyers also claimed Monica had a role to play in Abu Salem’s gunrunning, money-laundering and extortion rackets.
Judge C.V. Subramanyam, who had earlier sent Monica to judicial custody till November 25, said she should not be coerced or harassed. But the order prompted three of the 11 members of the CBI special task force questioning the extradited don in Mumbai to rush to the Andhra capital.
Officially, the CBI has been granted custody of Monica to interrogate her in the passport case, but the presence of the STF officials indicates she would also be questioned on Salem’s connections with the underworld, his assets, associates, past deeds and plans. They will also get the chance to cross-check the information Salem has divulged so far.
The developments came on a day a nun from the Prisons Ministry of India Church told a local daily that she met Monica briefly on Monday and found her depressed about her isolated life in prison. “I accompanied her in a prayer and consoled her,” Kattokaran Leena said.
Early this evening, a CBI team took Monica into custody from the Chanchalguda prison. A spokesman said Monica will be kept in the same room she spent the night after being brought back from Portugal last Friday. “We are only keen to elicit information about her links with Abu Salem ' how she met him, where and what she actually did for him,” said a source.
Local defence advocate Babu Rao, who appeared for Monica, said the court rejected his request for the presence of an advocate during her interrogation by the CBI.
The CBI complex is on the third floor of a central government office in the business district of Sultan Bazaar. “The entire third floor is being sealed off. In the office complex also, we will allow employees only on scrutiny of their photo-identity cards,” the source said. “It is not every day that we keep a VIP in our complex.”
The CBI has set up a kitchen to provide lunch, dinner and breakfast to the 10-member team which will question Monica. A DIG will lead the team. Five of the members, including two women experts on terrorism, have been flown in from Mumbai and Delhi.
The team has brought with it several video clippings of the Bombay blasts and several CDs on Salem and his companion’s public appearances.
“It will be an all-out effort to get sufficient information from her to book Abu Salem to eternity,” said a senior officer.