Terror and Mafia Kingpin Dawood Ibrahim: Why Nepal should be paying attention.
January 09, 2010
Dawood Ibrahim (aka Dawood Ebrahim and Sheikh Dawood Hassan) was born on December 26, 1955. He is the godfather of the organized crime syndicate D-Company in Mumbai and one of Interpol’s most wanted men. He was No. 4 on the Forbes' World's Top 10 most dreaded criminals list of 2008 and is ranked #50 in Forbes list of “The World's Most Powerful People.”
Dawood Ibrahim first attracted international interest after the 1993 Bombay bombings. In 2003, the United States declared him an “international terrorist” with close links to al-Qaida’s Osama bin Laden, and pursued the matter before the United Nations, attempting to freeze his international assets and crack down on his operations. More recently, Russian and Indian intelligence agencies have looked closely at Ibrahim's possible involvement in the November 2008 Mumbai hotel attacks. Among other things, there is circumstantial evidence that Ibrahim’s network provided a boat to the ten terrorists who killed 173 people in the 2008 Mumbai slaughter.
Ibrahim’s whereabouts remains unknown, although India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) believes he is in hiding in Pakistan. Pakistan officials deny any knowledge of his presence in their country. But the issue will not go away. The extradition of Dawood Ibrahim remains one of the major hurdles in the difficult relations between India and Pakistan.
THE SPECIFICS OF IBRAHIM’S D-COMPANY
Four days ago, on January 5, 2010, the United States’ Congressional Research Service (CRS), a research wing of Congress, released a report that identifies D-Company as a criminal syndicate now numbering 5,000 members with strategic alliance with the ISI, LeT and al Qaida, thus making it a leading example of the “criminal-terrorism” fusion model that currently poses an increasing threat to South Asian interests.
The report, titled "International Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Security Threats, US Policy, and Considerations for Congress", notes that D-Company is involved in a variety of criminal activities, including extortion, smuggling, narcotics trafficking, contract killing, and deep infiltration into the Indian filmmaking industry, (extorting producers, assassinating directors, distributing movies, and pirating films).
But, according to the report, D-Company's evolution into a genuine terrorist group began in response to the destruction of the December 1992 Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, India. 2000 people died in the ensuing riots and Hindu-Muslim relations deteriorated dramatically as a result.
Then: "Reportedly with assistance from Pakistan government's intelligence branch, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), D-Company launched a series of bombing attacks on March 12, 1993, killing 257 people," the report said. Following the attacks, Ibrahim moved his network's headquarters to Karachi. There, D-Company is believed to have deepened its strategic alliance with the ISI and developed links to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT).
(For those unfamiliar with it, LeT is an organization included in the Terrorist Exclusion List by the US Government in December 2001. It was subsequently proscribed by the United Nations in May 2005. Formed in 1990 in the Kunar province of Afghanistan, LeT is now headquartered in Muridke, near Lahore in Pakistan, and headed by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed.)
During the 1990s, according to the Congressional Research Service report, Ibrahim’s D-Company “began to finance LeT's activities, use its companies to lure recruits to LeT training camps, and give LeT operatives use of its smuggling routes and contacts. …Lending his criminal expertise and networks to such terrorist groups, [Ibrahim] is capable of smuggling terrorists across national borders, trafficking in weapons and drugs, controlling extortion and protection rackets, and laundering ill-gotten proceeds, including through the abuse of traditional value transfer methods, like hawala."
Also known as hundi, hawala is an informal value transfer system based on the performance and honor of a huge network of money brokers, which are primarily located in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and South Asia.
DAWOOD IBRAHIM’S RELATIONSHIP TO NEPAL AND THE PAKISTANI CONNECTION
Ibrahim has a long-standing connection to Nepal and was once a regular visitor to Nepal, according to Indian officials. He has since restricted his movement outside of Pakistan but, according to a South Asia Tribune report written in April 2004, Ibrahim was last seen in Kathmandu in the last week of August 2003. During that visit, he met his Nepali front man Sartaj Ahmed and several leaders from fundamentalist organizations. Sartaj is reportedly “in constant touch with officials of the Pakistani Embassy.”
Dawood has big financial stakes in Nepal: “He has made huge investments in a variety of business ventures, from media, private airlines, hotels, travel agencies to trans-border smuggling including that of gold. In Nepal he has built high level contacts with businessmen, officials, politicians, smugglers and religious fundamentalists,” according to South Asia Tribune. “The late Mirza Dilshad Beg, an ex-member of parliament of Nepal, was once an associate of Dawood. He was gunned down in Kathmandu in 1998. After his death, his son-in-law Sartaj joined Dawood.”
WHY NEPALIS SHOULD CARE ABOUT THE DAWOOD IBRAHIM CONNECTION
The exploitation of trade routes crossing through Nepal’s porous southern border – for both smuggling and the either direct or indirect exportation of terrorism (both domestic and Pakistani) – has now become a problem of increasing international concern and scrutiny. As long as the main political parties continue to squabble among themselves, while a would-be new constitution remains unwritten, and while southern Nepal remains an area with little or no effective security, the “criminal-terrorism fusion”, which has taken root in Nepal, will be favored with conditions suitable for further expansion and control. If this pattern cannot be reversed by the good people of Nepal, eventually, the international community may decide that they must address Nepal’s degeneration of law and order themselves – with or without Nepal’s consent.
Dawood Ibrahim’s name came up once again – in connection with Nepal – just last week. In the first days of 2010, the dramatic arrest of the son of a powerful Nepalese politician on charges of heading a major fake Indian currency and drugs smuggling racket, allegedly sponsored by Pakistani intelligence agencies, further exposed how illicit funds pour into Nepal (with the underworld’s help) – presumably to destabilize India’s relations with Nepal.
Here’s what happened.
A special task force of Nepal police arrested Yunus Ansari, the son of former minister Salim Miya Ansari, who is alleged to have links with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Dawood Ibrahim, after a tip-off by Indian authorities that he was running the two criminal networks.
Yunus Ansari, the president of Nepal’s National Wrestling Federation, is also the chairman of a new television channel that is yet to start regular transmission. While Yunus Ansari was arrested along with three Nepalis, two Pakistanis, one African and one from the Caribbean, police said they had no evidence against his father, former forest and soil conservation minister Ansari.
Yunus Ansari and his associates were caught with fake Indian currency worth over Indian Rs.2.5 million last week and nearly four kilograms of heroin after a long period of surveillance that started with the arrest of two Nepalis with fake Indian currency in India’s Madhya Pradesh state last year.
The Nepal chase started on New Year’s Day when Yunus Ansari’s Nepali bodyguard, Kashiram Adhikari, was dispatched to Thamel, once the hub of tourists and now increasingly targeted by criminals and sex workers, to make contact with Pakistani agents.
Adhikari led police to the Red Planet Guest House in Thamel where Pakistani national Mohammad Sajjad was awaiting him in room 304. The bodyguard collected a red suitcase from Sajjad and went to room 204 where another Pakistani, Mohammad Iqbal, was waiting with two suitcases.
After collecting the lot, Adhikari headed for the Bluebird Mall in Thapathali where Yunus Ansari had allegedly rented a room. Police caught him there and a search exposed the false bottoms in the suitcases, where the fake notes were hidden.
According to initial investigation, the racket starts from Karachi, where a Pakistani known as Haji Talad Ali heads it. The modus operandi was simple. The money would be brought to the same guesthouse from where Adhikari would take it to his master.
When police raided the hotel and arrested the two Pakistanis, Sajjad was found to possess heroin as well. Yunus was arrested soon afterwards from his residence in Tahachal.
Police also arrested a Guyana citizen, K. Ibrahim, and another from Sierra Leone, Austin Ibrahim, who were to have circulated the heroin.
ON NEW YEAR’S DAY, INDIA BEEFED UP SECURITY ALONG NEPAL’S BORDER BECAUSE OF PAKISTANI CONCERNS
On January 1, 2010, New Delhi placed its country on alert as the police launched a manhunt for three Pakistani militants who escaped from police custody.
Abdul Razzak, Mohammed Sadiq and Rafaqat Ali escaped from G B Pant hospital in central Delhi. The three had served jail terms for triggering two blasts in the city’s 16th century Red Fort in 2000. They were in the custody of Special Branch of Delhi Police and were to be handed over to the Foreigners Regional Registration office (FRRO) for deportation to Pakistan when the escape took place.
While the Meghalaya Police personnel, who were escorting the three, were being questioned by security agencies, Uttar Pradesh state police deployed additional security along the India-Nepal border to guard against possible threats or escapes through the 870-mile open border of Nepal.
The point here is that, in many people’s minds, the potential of a Nepali-Pakistani connection is becoming a given. This is not a healthy presumption for Nepal to have to contend with.
The Nepali police did an outstanding job of bringing Yunus Ansari to ground. Crimes were being committed and a crack team stepped in and took proper action.
But the police cannot be expected to do the government’s job, which is to provide stability – an atmosphere in which criminal activity can be curtailed before it actually takes place. Neither the Maoists nor the UML nor the Congress Party, nor any of the other parties for that matter, have been able to provide that sort of backdrop for the people of Nepal, who deserve far better.
Little wonder that the three major parties’ leaders – Prachanda, Koirala and Prime Minister Nepal -- were christened “The 3 Idiots” by the Nepali Times this week, a reference to a new Bollywood film that is currently all the rage in Kathmandu.
The international community may not get the joke, per se, but they’ll comprehend the cynicism behind the joke. They know that incompetence, at the end of the day, really isn’t all that funny.