But Yakub’s story was unusual. Educated in English-medium schools and college, he graduated with a degree in commerce. He became a chartered accountant in 1990. His accountancy firm was quickly successful, and in 1992 he won an award for the best chartered accountant in the Memon community.
In 1991, he launched an accounting firm called Mehta and Memon Associates, with his childhood friend Chetan Mehta. Later there was a third partner: a fellow accountancy student Ghulam Bhoira. When this firm closed down in 1992 Yakub started another called AR & Sons. He also set up an export firm, Tejareth International, with its office at Samrat Cooperative Society, Mahim, to export meat to the Middle East. So great was Yakub’s financial success that he bought six flats in the Al-Hussaini building, Mahim, where Tiger owned two duplex flats. In the same year, he married Raheen in a lavish ceremony at the Islam Gymkhana, and many people from the film world attended the wedding. He and Tiger were diametrically opposed to each other in nature. One had no compunctions about making money by illegal means; the other was suave, educated and successful through legitimate means.
It was inevitable that there should be friction between the two most successful Memon brothers. Another source of friction was that Tiger allegedly ill-treated his wife Shabana, and had an extramarital relationship. After one particularly vicious dispute, Abdul Razak turned Tiger and Shabana out of the family flat. Shabana and her children were soon allowed to return, and Tiger too returned to the family home about a year before the blasts.
It was Yakub’s well-known financial acumen that made the investigators suspect his involvement in the blasts case. During the investigations, it was found that complex financial transactions had taken place through several of Tiger’s accounts, and the police assumed that Yakub must have organized these.
The crime branch alleged that Yakub had remitted Rs 21,90,000 to Samir Hingora and Hanif Kadawala on 13 March 1993 to distribute to the other accused. The payment was supposedly arranged over the phone so that there were no records. During their search of the Memon flats in Al-Hussaini, the police had come across documents that showed that the family had four NRI accounts at the Turner Road, Bandra, branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). The accounts were in the names of Tiger’s brother Ayub Memon (account number 11679297-07), his wife Reshma Memon (account number 11679813-07), Tiger’s brother Suleiman’s wife Rubina Memon (account number 11979321-07) and Tiger’s wife Shabana Memon (account number 11679305-07). The police said that $61,700 was deposited in cash in the British Bank of Middle East, Dubai, from there it was transferred to Marine Midland Bank in New York, USA, and then to these accounts in HSBC. They suspected that this was an attempt to conceal the source of the money. Yakub had the authority to handle the accounts of the entire family and they suspected that he had used this money to pay various people, including his own company. Since the entire amount was tendered at the British Bank of the Middle East in Dubai, the police thought that somebody had financed the operation, fully or at least partly, from abroad.
The police also discovered that between December 1992 and March 1993, various accounts at the Mahim branch of the Development Cooperative Bank in the names of Tejareth International and Al-Taj Exports as well as the personal accounts of the Memon family showed heavy cash transactions. The balance in all these accounts on 12 March stood at meagre amounts. Clearly the accounts had been emptied prior to the blasts.
All this careful financial planning made the investigators conclude that Yakub Memon must have been involved. Accordingly, in December 1993, a reward of Rs 5 lakh was offered for anyone who had information about his whereabouts.
Kathmandu: July 21, 1994
On the morning of 21 July 1994, a well-dressed businessman carrying a Pakistani passport in the name of Yusuf Mohammed Ahmed sauntered through Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu. He had just got off the PIA 250 flight from Karachi. Though he looked serene, Yakub Memon’s mind was in turmoil. For the last seventeen months, he and his family had been on the run, and the life of a fugitive was wearing him down.
Yakub took a taxi to Karnoli Hotel, accompanied by his cousin, Usman, who had come to receive him. They stayed at the hotel for three days. It was a time for introspection.
The Memon family had been in Dubai on 12 March 1993. The Indian government had been putting pressure on the UAE government to repatriate them. Initially, the UAE denied the Memons were there, but eventually requested them to leave. In early April, an ISI agent escorted the family to Karachi. Each person was supplied with a Pakistani passport and a national identity card.
Meanwhile, the Indian government had received information that the Memons were in Karachi and asked the United Nations, the US and various European countries to support their request to Pakistan that the Memons be handed over. Therefore, on 15 April the Memons, escorted by four ISI commandos, took a Thai Airways flight to Bangkok, where they were accommodated in a spacious bungalow on Pattaya Road. It was virtually house arrest, as they were not allowed to leave the bungalow and were under constant surveillance. After twelve days, the protests by the Memon family grew so intense that they were brought back to Karachi again. They were housed in the Karachi Development Scheme area, popularly known as the Defence Colony and predominantly inhabited by army officials and personnel. This was a high-security zone and meant that the Memons were virtually untraceable.
Since then things had been better. Yakub had gone to Dubai for a week on his Pakistani passport, though always trailed by ISI men. He realized that for his family, there would never be true freedom again. There were two choices before him: he could live with this polite imprisonment by Pakistan, or he could go back to India, face a trial and try to clear his name. These were the options he had come to Kathmandu to try and think about. He decided that the best option for him was to try to make a deal with the Indian government and convince them that the rest of the Memon family was innocent. It was better to try to go back to their old lives rather than live at the mercy of the Pakistan authorities, as tales of the intelligence services killing off those who had outlived their usefulness were legion. He was especially concerned about his parents, who were now old and deserved better, and for his wife Raheen who was due to deliver their child soon. He did not want his child to live his whole life under the shadow of fear.
On 24 July, Yakub was back at the airport at 8.15-am, checking in for the 10.45-am Lufthansa flight LH 765 from Kathmandu to Karachi. At about 9.15-am, after he had cleared immigration formalities, he went in for the security check. On opening his briefcase, the officer found two passports belonging to him – Indian and Pakistani – as well as passports of all the other members of his family, a Pakistani national identity card, and a large amount of Pakistani and US currency. The Nepal police informed Interpol and later New Delhi. The interrogation began at Kathmandu itself, and continued for three days, with both Indian and Nepali police participating, though the latter’s involvement was minimal.
Delhi: July 28, 1994
On 28 July, a blindfolded Yakub was reportedly dropped off at Sunoli, on the border of UP, at 3-am He was hungry and totally drained of energy. He was taken to Gorakhpur, about two hours by road from Sunoli, and then flown to Delhi in a special plane. On the plane, Yakub met Union Home Secretary K Padmanabhaiah who headed the CBI investigation in Delhi. Until now events had been more or less as Yakub had scripted them when he placed his two passports in his briefcase.
At 4.30-am, 5 August, Yakub Memon approached New Delhi railway station. He was carrying a briefcase and a suitcase, containing various incriminating documents. There are no trains that arrived or departed at that hour, so it was a somewhat odd time to be there.
Four CBI officers along with armed commandos were waiting. They had allegedly been tipped off that a member of the D-Company was out on the prowl. They descended upon Yakub and whisked him away to the CBI headquarters at Lodi Road.
Eight hours later, Union Home Minister SB Chavan announced the sensational arrest of one of the kingpins of the blasts in Lok Sabha: "We had given up hope of arresting the Memons, we thought that we had reached a dead end but now we are lucky to have arrested Yakub Memon in Delhi." Later he told a crowded press conference that Yakub had been caught with Pakistani documents including a passport, a national identity card, a driving licence and high school certificates, all in the name of Yusuf Mohammed Ahmed. He was also carrying an Indian passport. "This proves that there was Pakistani complicity in the bomb blasts. Its role in sponsoring terrorist activities in India has been concretely established," said Chavan.
Yakub Memon was driven to Patiala House in a CBI van, preceded and followed by armed commando vans. He was produced in front of magistrate VK Jain, to whom he stated that apart from Tiger Memon, no other member of the Memon family was involved in the blasts. He denied the CBI account of his arrest. He stated he had been arrested on 24 July, and had been in Delhi since 28 July, where the CBI had interrogated him. The CBI counsel CS Sharma and SP Harishchandra Singh however stuck to their story. The proceedings lasted an hour. Yakub was remanded to CBI custody for thirty days.
After the arrest
Yakub Memon’s arrest spread a wave of elation in Bombay. Speaking to the press on 6 August, Sharad Pawar declared that Memon’s arrest proved what he had always known: that Pakistan was involved in the conspiracy. Everyone involved in the investigation was elated, as there had been little development in the case since the filing of the chargesheet. JCP Singh too believed that the documents recovered from Yakub established Pakistani complicity. With Memon’s evidence, it would now be possible to arrest more people involved.
The CBI stated that they had recovered a video cassette from Yakub, which had footage of the wedding of Taufiq Jaliawala’s daughter Rabia at Karachi, where Dawood Ibrahim and members of the ISI were honoured guests. Yakub was also carrying three audio cassettes on which he had allegedly secretly recorded important conversations that the CBI was now transcribing and analysing.
The media too found renewed interest in the blasts case. All newspapers reported the CBI version, but many carried Yakub’s denial as well. There was also much investigation and speculation about Yakub’s real role.
Two countries reacted immediately to the media reports. The GP Koirala government in Nepal, facing general elections and wary of charges of yielding to pressure from India, quickly issued a denial. On 5 August, a spokesman of the Nepali home ministry stated that no one called Yakub Memon had been taken into custody by the officials at the airport on 24 July. The wording of the denial was ambiguous as Yakub had been travelling under the name of Yusuf Ahmed.
The second, and sharper, denial came from Pakistan. The Pakistani high commissioner to India stated in a press release on 7 August that the arrest of the Indian citizen Yakub Memon did not surprise Pakistan as it had always maintained that the Memon family was not in Pakistan. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto described Chavan’s statements as "a pack of lies". She added that India was wrongly implicating Pakistan to divert attention from its own problems, especially the human rights abuse in Kashmir. Relations between the two countries were already tense as at the end of July Pakistan had virtually given notice at a UN press conference that they planned to raise the Kashmir issue before the General Assembly the following month.
Soon after the blasts, Pakistan had said that it was willing to help to bring to book the people behind the blasts. Officially there was a task force set up for this purpose, though subsequently there was no report of its activities. When Indian intelligence sources said that the Memons were in Karachi, Pakistan had denied this.
With the fresh evidence unearthed with Yakub Memon’s arrest it was widely felt that Delhi would make renewed attempts to have Pakistan declared a terrorist state. For months Pakistan had been on the US watch list of countries likely to be declared terrorist states. Memon’s arrest could prove to be a major blow to Pakistan’s international image.
Theories and speculation
There was considerable public and media speculation about how Yakub, despite being under constant ISI surveillance, could fly out of Karachi, carrying incriminating documents. According to one theory, RAW agents had wooed him away; according to another, Benazir Bhutto was behind it as she was seeking to expose the security establishment which was loyal to her arch rival, the previous prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
A third theory was that Dawood Ibrahim had persuaded Yakub to return to India to delink his name from the conspiracy. The CBI had announced a Rs 15 lakh reward for information about him. In an interview to India Today (31 July 1994) Dawood had said: ‘I am in a desperate situation. The Indian government has reduced me to a mouse, one who is trapped and cannot move around freely.’
Dawood’s link with the blasts, so far mentioned only in Dawood Phanse’s confession, had been reinforced when one of his close aides Usman Gani Mohammed Memon, a hawala operator, had been arrested on 20 July by the anti-terrorist squad of Gujarat police. During interrogation, Usman stated that Dawood had wanted to avenge the killings of innocent Muslims and so acquired and arranged for the shipment of RDX, arms and other explosives from Pakistan to India. The three hundred pages of Usman’s diary contained the names of top businessmen and builders who sought Dawood’s help to launder money. This arrest considerably bolstered the CBI’s theory that Dawood Ibrahim had masterminded the blasts.
During interrogation, Yakub Memon stubbornly maintained that he had never met Dawood, and named Tiger Memon and Taufiq Jaliawala as the prime movers of the conspiracy.
The fourth theory about the arrest was that Yakub had actually been on a business trip to Kathmandu and was apprehended while returning to Karachi. Off the record, CBI officials accepted this version. It was also speculated that the CBI had struck a deal with him, which all officials unanimously denied.
The Newstrack interview
Yakub sat in the darkened room and gazed at the ceiling. There was hardly any sound around him, and he felt cut off from the world. He thought about how his life had changed, of Raheen, who was due to have their first child in the first week of August. It was now 9 August, and he did not know if he was a father yet. He wished passionately that he had not left Bombay on 9 March. They would have undoubtedly faced a lot of trouble, but they would not have been branded traitors.
He had now spent twelve days with CBI officers, patiently answering their questions for hours every day. He had celebrated a mournful thirty-second birthday on 30 July.
A CBI officer came to him and told him that he was to give an interview on television.
Yakub looked at him blankly. "What interview?"
The officer grinned broadly. "You’re about to become a celebrity. It will be on the national TV – Doordarshan – and the whole of India is going to watch you."
Yakub was in half a mind to refuse, when it struck him that he could use this opportunity to let ninety crore of his countrymen know that apart from Tiger Memon, the other Memons were decent, law-abiding citizens. He asked the officer, "When am I supposed to be on television?"
"We have to go in for a recording now, it will be aired later tonight."
He was escorted to the Doordarshan studio. The programme on which he was being interviewed was Newstrack, a half-hour news analysis show. In response to the questions, he narrated the tale of his journey to Kathmandu, his interception at the airport, and his handing over to the CBI. He stated that it was Tiger Memon and Taufiq Jaliawala who had been the kingpins, and explained how Tiger had been used by the ISI in the plot.
Yakub spoke at length about the role played by Taufiq Jaliawala. It was Jaliawala who had coordinated with Dubai and Bombay on behalf of the Pakistani authorities, and played a major role in selecting the blast sites. Jaliawala’s construction business, automobile shop and sari emporium in Karachi were merely fronts for his more lucrative illegal businesses. He was a close associate of Dawood Ibrahim, and of Tiger Memon. When the Memons moved to Karachi, Jaliawala had initially given them shelter in his own bungalow, and aided them in securing new identity cards and passports. He had also given shelter to about ten of the men directly involved in the blasts – including Javed Chikna and Anwar Theba, Tiger’s two most senior aides – when they had arrived in Karachi. Yakub also described the wedding of Jaliawala’s daughter Rabia to Farooq, son of Feroze Dadi of Crawford Market, Bombay, on 30 April 1994. Many prominent citizens of Bombay, and underworld leaders from Bombay and Dubai had been invited and Jaliawala had indicated that he would rather the Memons did not attend as it would cause embarrassment if anyone from Bombay recognized them.
Apart from Jaliawala, there was another smuggler, Sayed Arif, also working from Dubai, who had aided Tiger Memon. With the money lent by Jaliawala and Arif, the Memon family had built a lavish bungalow called Ahmed House, which had cost Pakistani Rs 1.16 crore, in the Karachi Development Scheme area. However, despite material comforts, the Memon family was not happy exiled from their native land. From Yakub’s account, the family came across as good Indians, only circumstantially connected to the blasts and now in danger.
During June and July 1994, copies of the chargesheet in the blasts case had reached Karachi. Yakub had talked to lawyers who studied it and said that based on the evidence detailed, only Tiger could be convicted. The other members of the family would, at worse, receive light sentences. It was this assurance which had prompted Yakub’s return. He had prepared for the homecoming carefully. He had driven around Karachi, photographing the homes of Jaliawala, Dawood and Tiger’s lieutenants who had executed the bomb blasts. He had recorded conversations between Jaliawala, Tiger and others on microcassettes, secured a video of Rabia’s wedding, and gathered documents which showed how the Memons had all been given new identities. His cousin Usman had been his confidant.
Finally, Yakub was asked whether he had met Dawood Ibrahim. He denied meeting him, but said that he knew his name.
The interview was aired on Doordarshan at 9-pm. It created a huge sensation, as such an interview was unprecedented in the annals of Indian television. The government’s aim had been fulfilled: the world had heard how Pakistan had been involved in the blasts and even now was sheltering its perpetrators. Many viewers were impressed with Yakub’s courage and intelligence, and intrigued by the discrepancies between the CBI account and Yakub’s.
New Delhi: August 24, 1994
There were eight armed commandos waiting at the arrivals terminal at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. Several CBI officers also prowled around, keeping their eyes glued to the main arrival gate. It was 24 August 1994.
Air-India flight 736 from Dubai had already arrived. Soon they saw a group of six adults whose faces looked familiar and who had an uncertain air about them. Suleiman Memon and Isa Memon supported sixty-six-year-old Abdul Razak and sixty-year-old Hanifa. Immediately behind them walked a youth in his twenties, whom they assumed to be Yusuf. Following him was Suleiman’s wife Rubina and their two children, seven-year-old Iliyas and five-year-old Aliyah. Each of the adult male Memons carried a price of Rs 1 lakh, and each of the adult women carried a price of Rs 25,000. Only five adult members of the family were still missing – Tiger and his wife Shabana, Ayub and his wife Reshma, and Yakub’s wife Raheen who had recently delivered.
The Memons had travelled to Dubai, where they had contacted the Indian embassy, filed their affidavits and informed the embassy of their intention to return. The embassy had in turn informed the CBI, and escorted the group to the airport and on to the plane.
As the group reached the CBI officers, one of them came forward, introduced himself and told them that they were under arrest. They were taken to a safe house in a central government police colony in south Delhi, guarded by eight ferocious-looking and fully armed commandos. Metropolitan magistrate V.K. Jain remanded them to CBI custody for fourteen days under TADA. The children were allowed to stay with the family. The media had no inkling about these arrests at that time.
On 11 September the clan was joined by Raheen and her month-old baby. Raheen too arrived from Dubai, was arrested at the airport and remanded into custody.
Many believed that this mass surrender by the Memon family meant that a deal had been struck. The Indian government and the CBI, embarrassed that none of the important people in the conspiracy had been captured, had probably offered the Memons lighter punishment or an acquittal if they returned to India. However, the CBI maintained that there was no deal and the Memons were not planning to turn approvers. Its director, K Vijay Rama Rao, said that the Memons had surrendered because they had had no other option.
Evidence against Pakistan
The evidence provided by Yakub and Usman proved useful in tracing the RDX back into Pakistan. They had also supplied information which indicated Dawood’s closeness to powerful people in Pakistan. Yakub revealed that after the communal riots in Bombay, Raza Ashfaq Sarvar, then a minister in the Muslim League government of Punjab, Pakistan, frequently met Dawood in Dubai. He also stated that Dawood was close to several men in the Pakistani army, as well as to Taufiq Jaliawala, who Yakub alleged had organized the RDX supply for the ISI. Usman furnished details of a meeting in Dawood’s Dubai house on 10 January, where the plan for the blasts was reportedly discussed.
Earlier, there had been some other small pieces of evidence which showed Pakistani involvement. For example, Rakesh Maria’s team had seized twenty-seven cartons from the Memons’ garage and compound space in Al-Hussaini – twenty-five on 21 March 1993 and two on 24 March. The cartons were covered with black stains which made it difficult to read the labels. On a couple however the words "Packstile Packages Ltd., Lahore. Consignee: Wah Noble" could be read. The police laboratory at Kalina declared after examining the boxes that they had been used to carry plastic explosives. Investigation revealed that Wah Noble was a private limited company whose official address was 12/92 GT Road, Wah, Pakistan. The company dealt with the manufacture of dynamite, emulsion and powdered high explosives like black powder and PETN, safely fuses, detonators and blasting equipment. Thus the explosives used seemed to have been manufactured and sent from Pakistan.
The government of every country monitors the sale of explosives, especially their import and export. It could be inferred that the government of Pakistan or at least some central government agency there had given its tacit consent for the smuggling of these deadly explosives. They had also entered India illegally. When the CBI checked with the Indian Director General of Foreign Trade, it was discovered that five companies in India had a licence to import explosives. For each consignment, approval had to be obtained from the Controller of Explosives at Nagpur. These five companies were Hutti Gold Mines Company, Raichore; HLS Geeta Ltd., Jaisalmer; Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd., Vishakapatnam; Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd., Bombay; and HLS India Ltd., New Delhi. As none of these firms had imported the explosives, it was clear that they had been smuggled illegally to the country from Pakistan.
The hand grenades used also seemed to be sourced from Pakistan. The markings on them read ‘Arges 69’, and weapons experts said this was an Austrian company. A sample was sent to the Federal Ministry for Interior in Austria for investigation. They sent a report to the Indian government dated 28 April 1993. It reported that the grenades were manufactured by two firms— Ulbrichts-Witwe and Arges-Armaturen in Schwanenstadt. The two firms were owned by the same person and were located about a hundred metres from each other. Ulbrichts processed metals and synthetics, while Arges manufactured hand grenades and helmets.
In 1968, both firms had received an enquiry from Akhtar and Hoffman from Islamabad, regarding the licensing of machinery for the production of hand grenades of model HG 69. A deal was struck, and from 1968 to 1971, the requisite machinery was licensed to them. After 1971, this was replaced by machinery for model HG 72.
There were plans for setting up a company called Ulbrichts Pakistan in collaboration with Akhtar and Hoffman but there was a dispute regarding payment of licensing fees and no official agreement could be reached. However, during 1972–75, there was a firm called Ulbrichts Pakistan, which described itself as a joint-venture partner of Ulbrichts Austria and produced and sold HG 69 hand grenades in Pakistan. There were still three cases pending in the courts in Pakistan regarding this firm.
The Austrian report stated that the samples sent indicated that the grenades had been made with the machines sold to Pakistan in 1968. The markings on the detonators of the grenades and the serial numbers showed they were manufactured by Ulbrichts Pakistan in 1983. HG 69 grenades had not been produced in Austria since 1971. The grenades sent for examination differed from those produced in Austria in two ways: the steel pellets in the casing were different, and the explosive substance used was not nitropenta which the Austrian company used.
Besides the explosives and the grenades, the Star brand pistols which had been recovered were also of Pakistan manufacture. These were very popular with the Bombay underworld.
But the most clinching evidence of Pakistani collusion was the fact that they had harboured the Memon family and given them false passports, even after they had denied that the Memons were in Pakistan when India had requested their deportation. The passports of the Memons which Yakub had been carrying showed that all members of the family had been issued Thai visas from the embassy of Thailand in Islamabad on 15 April 1993, valid until 14 July 1993.
All these details added up to significant confirmation of Pakistan's involvement. Yakub Memon's return had paid rich dividends for the CBI.
Excerpted with permission from Black Friday: The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts, S. Hussain Zaidi, Penguin Books India.
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