Mirchi hawala ring: ED approaches multiple countries for help

Mirchi hawala ring: ED approaches multiple countries for help

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has approached over six countries including UAE and the UK as part of its probe into suspected terror funding and hawala operations of late Iqbal Mirchi, a longtime associate of fugitive Pakistan-based don Dawood Ibrahim.

The agency, which has recently launched a multi-level probe into the Rs 3,000 crore slush funds ring, has already issued notices to two sons and the widow of Mirchi, his relatives, lawyers and business associates in connection with its investigation conducted under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

Sources privy to the development said ED has made official communications to these countries as Mirchi and his alleged illegal business operations were being conducted from these locations and there exists a "trail of documents, bank accounts and financial transactions".

Among the other countries to which communications have been sent include Cyprus, Turkey, Spain and Morocco.

The sources said the agency has sought all "available documents and material" from these nations which are related to Mirchi and other suspects it has identified in this probe.

The agency, under FEMA provisions, has also contacted the RBI to obtain dossiers on Mirchi and his associates' business and banking operations in India.

Mirchi, who died in 2013 in the UK, is suspected to have laundered and moved funds through the hawala (illegal way of sending money by skirting official banking channels) route to purchase a host of properties in at least 10 or more countries with the help of his associates.

The agency had earlier also written to the Mumbai police Crime Branch, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Maharashtra land records authorities seeking their cooperation in a this probe that involves about 50 tainted assets in over 10 countries, a clutch of about 40 firms in the country and abroad and a maze of at least 20 bank accounts in India and some private banks overseas.

The highly-sensitive probe, in the making for over a year now, claims to suggest that Mirchi's family and associates sold at least five prime properties in Mumbai and allegedly moved crores of funds obtained from their sale to purchase some costly assets abroad.

A huge amount of monies from these deals is also suspected to have found its way into the terrorist and arms-running mafia run by Dawood which is part of the larger probe, sources had said.

The agency is probing the entire gamut of complex real estate transactions as it found that at least four buildings, measuring about 6,132 sq mt in total, and located in Mumbai's Worli Sea Face were sold off by Mirchi's family in 2010 by creating "fictitious identities" and front companies in "contravention of RBI guidelines and FEMA rules".

The four buildings on Worli Sea Face were sealed under the Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act (SAFEMA) and CrPC in the aftermath of the 1993 Mumbai bombings as they were suspected to be 'benami' assets of Mirchi.

The assets were later released by a court order following which they were sold.
Mirchi was not only the main henchman in executing underworld contracts for Dawood but was also allegedly one of the world's top ranking narcotics smuggler. India had issued an Interpol Red Corner notice against him in 1994.

The dossiers received by ED from multiple sources claim to reveal that some of these assets, including commercial ones, are located in Dubai, Britain and Turkey.

Investigators suspect a good tranche of money from the sale of these assets have reached the pockets of Dawood even as probe suggests that a number of these assets purchased by Mirchi and his family are being operated by gangsters deputed by the underworld don who too left India soon after the 1993 blasts and his been elusive since.

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