The oil mafia sheltered the 10 Pakistani terrorists in Machhimar Nagar in Colaba and in fact a woman even showed Ajmal Kasab and his accomplice the way to Cama and Albless Hospital.
This was among the many theories that came up before the Ram Pradhan committee as it probed the 26/11 attack, reports Vicky Nanjappa.
The ten Pakistani terrorists, who went on the rampage in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, were provided shelter in the city by a kingpin of a diesel scam. This shocking revelation had come up during the hearing of the Ram Pradhan Committee, comprising former Union home secretary Ram Pradhan and former special secretary, Research and Analysis Wing, V Balachandran, which was constituted after the terror attacks by the Maharashtra government.
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The committee, which looked into the administration's response to the strike, had informally written about the hand of the oil mafia to the Union government that could have explored what possibly could expose the local help that the terrorists received. But the government never did so.
So what is the diesel scam?
According to the police investigation, the scam ran into Rs 4,000 crore and the turnover was approximately Rs 90 crore per month.
This multi-crore scam was rampant in Maharashtra between 2004 and 2009. The police’s first crackdown came with the arrest of one of the kingpins Samruddin Khan, 45, in 2006. Following the arrest, the scam was largely run by a woman, police sources told rediff.com. However, she went off the radar two months after the 26/11 attacks, in January 2009, and no efforts were made to track her down.
So did this woman from the oil mafia provide shelter to the 10 terrorists? Not only did she provide them with a place to stay, but she also guided two terrorists -- Kasab and his accomplice to the Cama and Albless Hospital, said insiders, on the night of November 26, 2008. Seven people were killed inside the hospital by the two who walked in as the staff was attending to patients.
The oil mafia provided shelter and logistic help to the 10 Pakistani terrorists who came to Mumbai before the attacks. They were put up in a shanty in Machimar Nagar, which was considered a safe haven by the scamsters.
The police, aware of the ongoings, chose to look away. Little did they realise that the kingpin would sneak in Lashkar terrorists inside Mumbai, said an investigator.
Where did it all begin?
The roots of the diesel scam, which spread across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Raigad, can be linked to the rise in the black marketing of kerosene. Those who could not afford kerosene in black began purchasing smuggled diesel at a lower cost. Diesel was sold at half the market price. In 2008, it was sold at Rs 19 per litre.
According to investigations, nearly 500 to 600 tonnes of diesel was smuggled to India from Pakistan and the transactions would take place in the high seas. The police say that this was a well-networked operation involving the underworld, which operated from Pakistan.
The diesel once collected was brought to Navi Mumbai where it was transferred into tankers. Documents were forged and then it was supplied to collection agents in various parts of the state, especially the coastal pockets.
The Maharashtra police continued to crackdown on the oil mafia; raids were conducted but the kingpins often got away. A few corrupt police officials and politicians turned their back, sources told rediff.com.
She saw the terrorists 2 days before 26/11
There was pressure to crackdown on the kingpins, the police got into action but it wasn’t enough to check the scam.
One of the biggest catches for the police was Samruddin Khan, who was arrested by the Mangaon police. He ran several companies, which dealt with chemicals and petrochemicals, the investigations had then revealed. Hailing from Uttar Pradesh, he owned two plush properties in Navi Mumbai.
There was a nexus between businessmen, petrol pump owners, police officers and politicians from Maharashtra that saw to it that the diesel scam continued to flourish. Apart from smuggling diesel, the kingpins were also involved in adulterating fuel and supplying it to petrol pumps across the state. While the smuggled diesel was sold to the poor, especially the fishermen, fetching them Rs 90 crore per month, the adulterated diesel business fetched them easily up to Rs 50 crore per day, according to police investigations.
Even fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim had a stake in the scam, said sources. “The scam came handy in Dawood’s other illegal business. He is the main financier of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba who carried out the 26/11 attacks,” said a police officer. There have been several murmurs post the 26/11 attacks regarding his involvement but the same never came out in the open.
While there have been several reports citing his involvement, there has been no evidence to prove the same.
For those involved in the diesel scam the hideout at Machimar Nagar was a safe hiding spot, and it was this place that was used to shelter the 10 terrorists from Pakistan as well. The scam itself was well known to several officers but who chose to look the other way, and it was this attitude that enabled the Lashkar men to sneak into the city.
Image: Boats docked at Machhimarnagar Colony in Colaba, Mumbai, from where the diesel mafia reportedly operated.
Photograph: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel