The telephone rang that evening at a palatial bungalow in the uptown Clifton neighbourhood of Karachi and was answered by the most wanted man in India- Dawood Ibrahim.
“AapKaun? (Who are you?)” he shot back as soon as the correspondent took Dawood’s name. When this correspondent identified himself, there was a pause as the 1993 Bombay blasts mastermind, clearly rattled at picking up a call he was not supposed to, tried to figure out damage control.
“No this is Chotani speaking,” he tried to take evasive action. Chotani- Javed Chotani- is a bookie who masterminds Dawood’s businesses in Dubai. Indians know him through his involvement in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing case where he allegedly worked as a conduit between Dawood and the players.
Dawood then hurriedly handed over the phone to the real Chotani and from then on it was him who did all the talking- prompted by the Don himself. “Yes, tell me,” he said. He was still trying to figure out an adequate response when this correspondent asked him for an interview with Dawood.
When asked whether it wasn’t Dawood himself who picked up the phone in the first place, all chaos broke loose at the other end. There was a rustle as Chotani turned to his boss for directions. “Haan… bolo, bolo,” that was Dawood’s voice in the background. “Haan… bolo, bolo,” Chotani faithfully repeated over the phone.
What followed for a few minutes then was a desperate attempt at stonewalling by the dreaded terror don and his aide. Dawood and Chotani tried to deny it’s a Karachi number, they tried to deny everything, made a bid to excuse themselves, saying it was the month of Ramzan and it was time for namaz. This was how it played out.
During the course of the chat it emerged that Dawood was neither down with gangrene, nor suffering from serious heart ailment as reports had earlier said. “Blood pressure was up a bit,” was Chotani’s explanation, clearly implying the don was in good health and frequently in touch his henchmen.
This telephone conversation was recorded two months ago, but CNN-News18 waited till it was run past intelligence officials before confirming it was indeed the voice of the man who ordered the 1993 blasts in Bombay which left 257 people dead.
Dawood, a native of Maharashtra’s Mumke village, ran his crime syndicate in Mumbai from his Dubai haven in the early 90s. Fearing prosecution by Indian authorities, after the 1993 blasts, he took refuge in Karachi where he is since kept safe out of the world’s eye by Pakistani authorities. Islamabad has always denied he was on their soil, and over the years has been blocking every attempt by India to get him.
The man, designated a ‘global terrorist’, by UN lives in D-13, Block-4, Clifton, Karachi, under the alias of Sheikh Ismail Merchant. And we have just caught him on tape.