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December 23, 2019

Iqbal Mirchi died seven years ago but the chase continues


Mon, Dec 23, 2019

LONDON: The famed Indian businessman Iqbal Memon died nearly seven years ago after a heart attack in London at the age of 63 but his business dealings and connections continue to remain subjected to interest of investigators in several countries – the major focus being on his assets in UK, India and Dubai.

Investigators in several countries are looking with interest the financial dealings of Iqbal Memon’s children, especially his son Asif Iqbal Memon, a British national who now mostly lives in Dubai and runs business affairs from there. Asif Memon is helped in the running of businesses by his younger brother Junaid Iqbal Memon, mother Hajra Iqbal Memon and sister Nadiya Malik.

Last week, the Scotland Yard officers met two businessmen, an Indian and a Pakistani, and made queries about their decades-old links with the late businessman who was famously known as Iqbal Mirchi. One of them confirmed the police called on him but didn’t close the contents of the meeting.

Mirchi’s sudden and untimely death in 2013 brought forward his sons who are now being asked to answer questions in relation to various business deals of their father.

Indian authorities have alleged that Iqbal Mirchi operated two dozen companies in the United Kingdom (UK), the United Arab Emirates (UAE), South America and Europe to launder more than Rs 1,000 crore and buy more than 51 properties in UK, Dubai, Australia and Europe. The amount, it’s alleged, was generated from the 2010 sale of four prime properties: Rabia Mansion, Marium Lodge, Sea View and Samandar Mahal, in Worli.

Iqbal Memon personally oversaw the completion of these deals and later these properties went to his family.

Sources have told this reporter that investigators in UK, India and Dubai are looking at the purchase of these properties and the source of purchase. Also, said the source, the investigators are trying to put together a clear view of how business affairs of the Mirchi family are currently being run.

Investigators say that investments were made also in Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Cyprus, Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Queensland (Australia), Massey (New Zealand) and Australia through Iqbal Mirchi’s many businesses. Evidence shows that Mirchi went on a property-buying spree in London from 2010 till his death towards the end of 2013.

The widening investigation has drawn in Raj Kundra, British Asian husband of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) has questioned him into his alleged deals with Iqbal Mirchi’s associates.

Iqbal Mirchi’s eldest son Asif Iqbal Memon runs real estate and hotels business from Dubai. He and his family members have refused to join investigations in India. His London-based lawyers didn’t answer questions on the opening of new investigation in these countries.

Iqbal Mirchi, once ranked in the top 50 global drug barons, became famous when Indian tried to get him extradited from the UK for prosecution but a court refused to hand him over to India over insufficient evidence. India tried to get him extradited for alleged murder and for his alleged part in Mumbai bombings that left hundreds dead but at the Bow Magistrates’ Court India failed to show any evidence and the court found that Mirchi had no case to answer. India paid Mirchi’s legal costs. His name was mentioned during the trial of Hemant Lakhani, a Briton accused of smuggling a shoulder-launched missile to the US, but nothing was proven against him.

He lived in East London’s affluent area in an expensive six-bedroom house for nearly two decades after feeling India, following Mumbai bombings in 1993 in response to desecration of Babri Mosque. Throughout he held that the Indian establishment was hounding him because he was a Muslim. He had famously said: “My first crime is that I am a Muslim. My second crime is that I am a successful Muslim businessman.”

He was arrested in April 1995 by officers from Scotland Yard on drugs and terrorism charges but the charges were dropped later over lack of evidence.

While the police probe in UK failed to establish any link of Mirchi with criminality, his name remained on file in India.

Just before his death, Iqbal Mirchi had told this correspondent that he wanted to return to India but didn’t believe that he will get a fair trial and complained that India was treating him unfairly through character assassination and linking him to the underworld.

Mirchi said he had never broken any laws and was victimized because he was a successful businessman. He had said claims that he was linked with the 1993 Mumbai blasts were laughable.

He left behind his wife named Hajra Iqbal Memon and children Asif Iqbal Memon, Junaid Iqbal Memon and Nadiya Malik. All are British Indian nationals.

Mirchi loved to live in London but then India restricted movement of his family only between Dubi and London and he left London to live and do business in Dubai. Mirchi was forced to leave Dubai and come to live in London after it became clear that Indian will attempt his extradition from Dubai.

India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) has filed a chargesheet against 16 people including in connection with Iqbal Mirchi’s properties in Mumbai, after arresting four people in October claiming that they had a role in projecting Memon’s four properties as “untainted”.

The arrests took place in relation to a major real estate deal in late 1980s.

The ED has claimed that some of the accused had allegedly met Mirchi and his family members in London to facilitate the deal. The govt claims that it has documents to prove how the ownership of the properties was manipulated to project them as untainted. It claims to have a list of 50 foreign properties belonging to Mirchi. The charge sheet is spread over 12000 pages and names the first wife and sons of Iqbal Mirchi along with others.

Mirchi’s first wife and sons, who are currently under the scanner, are believed to be travelling between Dubai and the UK to manage their business affairs. They have not traveled to India in a long time fearing action by the authorities but the latest action by Indian authorities mean that it’s only a matter of time before the matter reaches to legal domain of the countries such as UK and Dubai.

Iqbal Mirhci died seven years ago but he remains a dead man walking.