July 23: Mystery surrounded whether Dawood Ibrahim, India’s most wanted fugitive, was attending a reception held in Dubai to mark his daughter’s marriage to the son of Pakistani cricket icon Javed Miandad, as Indian intelligence agents scanned the city for signs whether he had indeed landed here.
Even the hotel where the reception was to be held remained unknown. Dummy bookings were made at several leading hotels of Dubai in order to draw a smokescreen. It was believed that a “main get-together” was to be held at the Burj Al Arab hotel, a Dubai landmark and the region’s tallest and most expensive hotel where a room costs upwards from $1,000. The most expensive suite at the hotel costs about $17,000 a night.
Around 9.30pm, a few guests, both Indians and Pakistanis as well as some Arabs, had arrived at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, one of the hotels where a booking had been made.
None of the guests appeared to be a known VIP from any side. Piped music blared through the elaborately decorated reception hall on the ground floor of the Grand Hyatt, which opened its door only two years ago.
The invitation to the reception, which did not say where it was held, said the baraat was to arrive at 9.30 pm (11pm India) and dinner was to be served at 10 pm. But it seemed unlikely that the schedule was being kept, at least not at Grand Hyatt anyway.
Even with the arrival of a handful of guests, there was no sign of the hosts from either side, and it was speculated that only “small fries” were invited there while the “big fish” were to assemble at Burj Al Arab.
If the site of the reception marking the July 9 marriage of Dawood’s daughter Mahrukh with Junaid, the Pakistani cricketer’s son, was a secret, more secretive was the guest list. Dozens of Hindi film personalities and leading figures from Mumbai’s construction industry as well as jewellery trade, prominent cricket players and others were reportedly on the guest list, but those who were here kept a low profile. They were sure to face questioning when they returned home.
Some have business interests in Dubai and had arranged “legitimate” business trips in order to have a veil for their presence here. Others had either flew in from Europe for a natural “overnight stay” in Dubai on their way home to India while others were also here on their way to Europe and other destinations that would make their presence here legitimate.
Sources said a special team of Indian security and intelligence agencies landed in Dubai more than two weeks ago, scouting the landscape for any sign that Dawood, the prime accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts who is also wanted in dozens of cases of extortion, murder and blackmail, was in town to make preparations for the reception.
Underground rumours had it that Dawood, who is in his 50s, was supposed to land in a chartered plane travelling on a diplomatic passport of an ex-Soviet republic, and be whisked off by a helicopter that would land on the roof helipad of Burj Al Arab.
He was to come down for a couple of hours and return by helicopter to his plane and take off again to wherever he came from.
It was learnt that the Indian government had sent a strong official letter to the government of the UAE pointing out that Dawood Ibrahim was among India’s most wanted fugitives and that the UAE and India have an extradition agreement.
The UAE government has made no comment on the affair.
Dozens of foreigners host their wedding reception in Dubai and no law is being violated if Miandad was to hold his son’s wedding reception here.
However, that is not what the Indian authorities think.
“We know that he (Dawood) was scheduled to come to attend the reception and he was paying for the entire thing,” said an Indian intelligence source. “We know that some of his top lieutenants and at least two of his brothers were here a week earlier,” said the source, who did not want to be identified for obvious reasons. None of those who were here appears in India’s wanted list and thus no action could be taken against them, added the source.
The question remained how the Indian authorities could prove that Dawood was in Dubai on Saturday. Those attending the Burj Al Arab reception were reportedly cautioned against carrying cameras or even mobile phones with cameras. If carried, these were subject to be surrendered at the entrance to the party hall, it was learnt.
The invitation had golden decoration on black background. Inside the envelope is a card cover, which opens like a door and carries the invitation card.
Engraved in gold on the cover is “Marriages are decided in Heaven and will be celebrated on Earth, Oh! Allah guide this couple to the best of happiness, understanding and success (Aameen)”.
Mr and Mrs Dawood Hassan Shaikh Ibrahim have extended the invitation for the wedding ceremony of “their beloved daughter” with Junaid Miandad s/ Mr and Mrs Javed Miandad InshaAllah on Saturday, 23rd July 2005.