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Indian intelligence believes Lakhani is no terrorist

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | August 14, 2003 01:06 IST
Last Updated: August 14, 2003 01:36 IST

Hemant Lakhani, the suspected arms dealer who was arrested yesterday in Newark, New Jersey, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was not a terrorist, according to a senior serving Indian intelligence officer.

"Lakhani was not a terrorist," the officer, speaking anonymously, told "Maybe he was doing something he should not have been doing, but you can't call him a terrorist."

The officer said Lakhani, who was born on July 2, 1935, has been a British citizen for 20 years. He was living in Hendon, north London. One of his office assistants, who hails from Gujarat, was also interrogated today in London, he claimed.

Lakhani owned a company called Multitrade (London), which was dissolved in January 2000. His wife Kusum, born on March 20, 1937, is a director in Reliance Clothing (a local firm unconnected to the Indian giant). Kusum Lakhani was with her husband when he was arrested. 

As photographs of the couple have not yet been released, community leaders in London are keeping their fingers crossed. But C B Patel, the London-based publisher of two ethnic weeklies, Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar, told on telephone that the Gujarati community is in a state of shock.

"The couple by the same name whom we know are quite well known in the Gujarati community," Patel said. "Hemant Lakhani is known as Babubhai and exactly resembles the sketch shown by CNN. I know him. He is a textile merchant who migrated to England from Ghatkopar, Mumbai."

Patel said Babubhai was a confident, low-profile person with a sense of humour, while Kusum was polite and highly social. The late Lady Diana had inaugurated a building of Sangam, a local women's organisation, when Kusum Lakhani headed it.

Calls to the Lakhani home now are going unanswered, Patel said. 

The Asian community in London finds it hard to believe that one of its members could be involved in an activity like arms smuggling. They all believed Lakhani had interests in the diamond and jewellery trade. But the FBI has alleged that he arrived in the United States to close the deal on a Russian SA-18 ILA missile capable of bringing down commercial airliners.

Asked if the Indian Intelligence agencies were kept informed of the sting operation, the officer quoted earlier said, "Lakhani was not an Indian, he was a British citizen of Indian origin."

B Raman, India's foremost counter-terrorism expert and a former officer of the Research and Analysis Wing, told, "This is sting operation against a suspected arms smuggler. The intelligence officer posed as a terrorist. They have not identified any terrorist organisation or terrorists. So all the hype around the arrest is not justified."

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Number of User Comments: 17

Sub: why r people raising the muslim issue

It really disturbs. I have seen some people raising the issue that no body wuld have sympathised with lakhani had he been a muslim. Its ...

Posted by ashish sinha

Sub: Look how cunning these people are!!!

If this guy was muslim they would have branded him as terrorist and no body in Indian govt would have even raised any concern (as ...

Posted by indian_muslim

Sub: Hemant Lakhani

I am an Asian and I do feel upset that one Gujarati guy has tarnished the image of Indians here by siding with Osama and ...

Posted by raj

Sub: Lakhani is no terrorist-- comments of Indian Intelligence personnel

It is quite absurd for the indian intelligence fellow to give such comment.Any person aiding terrorist is a terrorist.

Posted by LM Srivastava

Sub: Good Evaluation!

Sir, No doubt Hemant Lakhani is not a Terrorist, because he is not a Muslim.Even a non muslim who is involved in terrorism will not ...

Posted by sunilkulkarni


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