Mumbai/Washington, July 19: Mafia-busters in Mumbai today smacked their lips at the prospect of having a plateful of dons for dinner but bit into a Mirchi that was too hot to swallow.
On a day a Portugal court cleared the extradition of gangster Abu Salem, a top Mumbai police officer declared that the force is preparing to “welcome back” druglord Iqbal Mirchi and Dawood Ibrahim’s point man Ejaz Lakdawala — two of the country’s most wanted fugitives.
Joint police commissioner Satyapal Singh said this morning that Mirchi and Lakdawala have been traced and are likely to be deported soon. Hours later, Singh changed his version on Mirchi, who changed the face of narcotics smuggling in India and has found a place on a US blacklist, and said he “got it wrong”.
Singh, apparently at the receiving end from Delhi for “jumping the gun”, said the information that Mirchi might be in the US could be misleading. “It is Allan Waters John, a US national wanted for some crimes in Mumbai, and not Mirchi, who has been detained.’’
In a curious coincidence, Singh was later in the evening transferred from the high-profile post. However, before his formal departure, at least one of Singh’s forecasts of the day was proved correct. Tariq Parvin, an aide of Dawood, was deported from Dubai to Mumbai and arrested tonight.
Mirchi is unlikely to be deported from the US or extradited to India even if he is traced to America and detained, according to sources in the US Congress associated with the drafting of a law under which Mirchi is now being tracked by the Americans.
A few weeks ago, President George W. Bush designated Mirchi a “kingpin” of the global drug trade under a 1999 US legislation: the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
Experts in the law on Capitol Hill told The Telegraph that any person charged under the act faces 10 years’ imprisonment in the US and civil penalties of up to $1 million.
This implies that if Mirchi is detained in the US and charged under the “Kingpin” act — as the legislation is popularly known — he will first have to go through the US judicial process and serve any sentence imposed on him. Only then can he be extradited to India.
Congressional sources fear Mumbai police may have jumped the gun because Singh could be unfamiliar with the US law under which Mirchi already stands accused of being a druglord.
Other sources in the US government said there is a provision in bilateral agreements between the US and India which allows an Indian sentenced in a US court to serve the jail term in India and vice versa. This would provide for Mirchi’s repatriation to India.
However, this can happen only after Mirchi is charged and sentenced under the “Kingpin” act. He would also have the right to appeal any sentence, implying that any repatriation, if at all, could take years.
The Americans are now in the process of working together with the UK, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India on creating a noose for Mirchi following his recent designation by Bush as a druglord.
There is no indication or any confirmation that Mirchi has been traced to the US, as claimed by Mumbai police. Sources here said Mirchi was last known to be in the UK, where he was running a legal rice milling business, although he frequently travels to Karachi, lately avoiding the UAE.
However, Mumbai police seemed to be more sure of Lakdawala, who has been accused of being part of the ring that masterminded the Bombay blasts of the last decade. Singh said Lakdawala has been detained but did not say in which country.
The deported Parvin is believed to have evinced interest in coming back to India so that he can face charges. Crime branch officers, who had been talking about Parvin’s deportation to India from Dubai, said that the Dawood aide had “expressed his desire to return to Mumbai and face legal consequences of the crimes he had committed before he fled to the emirate”.
If Lakdawala and Mirchi also come to India, it will be a major shot in the arm for Indian police and a bigger victory than the deportation last year of Iqbal Kaskar, Dawood’s younger brother. It is widely believed that Kaskar was “sent back” so that he could look after his elder brother’s disintegrating crime empire.