The arrest of top Dawod Ibrahim aide Iqbal Mirchi in London has give Indian agencies plenty to smile about. The man who is said to have been handling Dawood's drug syndicate, spent the last decade in Essex in London.
Central Bureau of Investigation sources who confirmed the arrest say that there has been a Red Corner Notice against the man since 1994. The notice (A-529/11-1994) was issued a year after the Bombay serial blasts in 1991, after which he went missing.
The noice, issued through the CBI, specifically speaks about his role in storing and manufacturing of narcotics.
Born on April 25, 1950, Mirchi has gone by aliases Memon Iqbal Mohammad, Iqbal Mirchi and also Iqbal Merchant. Fluent in Arabic, Hindi and English, Mirchi got the nickname because his family was into trading of red chillies.
Although there is more being spoken about his role in the drug business compared with the 1993 serial blasts, he still would be the vital link to crack the 'D' code, according to the CBI.
The drug syndicate under Mirchi's control did not remain just that; it became a full-fledged route to acts of terror. The Intelligence Bureau says that the drug racket is very directly linked to every act of terror in India.
In fact, it was the plan by the Inter-Services Intelligence to interlink both these networks and the story goes that this is exactly how they managed to get Dawood into their fold in the first place.
The Pakistan and Afghanistan routes are very crucial to any drug trade, which were very much under the control of the ISI. They were aware that the D gang was using these routes extensively, so the ISI struck a deal with the gang. The deal was that the ISI would make the job easier only if Dawood agreed to pump a large share of his drug income into terror activities.
Now that Mirchi has been arrested, India would seek his extradition since it is a known fact that he is important to India when compared with any other country. Although he operated in London, he was the point man for the international drug trade being run by the D Gang. This would mean that his links spread across not only to India, but to Thailand, Nepal and also Nigeria, all of which have been proven to be key hubs for the Dawood gang.
Mirchi was once arrested by the Scotland Yard in 1995 on charges of drug peddling and also the 1993 blasts. India had a very surprising response at that time, and despite their request for extradition being turned down, they never went in for an appeal.
However, in the Indian records he is still an offender and all the cases pertaining to drugs and terrorism against him remain intact. Sources say that the scenario now is very different when compared with 1995, and there is much more material against him when compared with 16 years back.
Today, India not only has its own case, but also has the support of the United States which has termed him as an offender dealing in the drug racket. Hence this time around, the CBI hopes that the extradition process would be much simpler and they are confident of getting his custody.
If at all Mirchi is extradited, then the Indian agencies could consider it to be a major breakthrough. His role in the drug racket would be of interest to both India and the US, but the more important thing is that both these countries have ample information that this racket is directly connected to everything related to terrorism.
The drug routes between Pakistan Afghanistan, Nepal, India and Thailand have been used for terror activities. Not only are these routes used to smuggle arms and ammunition, but are also used to pump in the fake currency which has become terror's primary financier.
Although Indian agencies were aware of Mirchi's whereabouts all through, no serious attempt was ever made to extradite him. He was in Dubai for a very long time after the 1993 serial blasts and at that time he was declared as a proclaimed offender.
However, he sensed that he could be extradited and hence moved to the United Kingdom. He has managed to handle the drug trade with ease in the international circuit, and according to Indian agencies he continues to be the most senior man in the syndicate.
It would be interesting to see how India moves about his extradition. "He needs to be looked as an international offender, and his interrogation would help us in cracking several cases relating to terror in India and the rest of the world," said an IB source.