An apartment complex, a guest house and a hotel linked to Dawood Ibrahim in south Mumbai were auctioned on Tuesday. Here’s everything you need to know about the properties.
Pakmodia Street isn’t just another congested linear expanse on the map of Mumbai city. The narrow lane, part of the busy Bhendi Bazaar area in South Mumbai, was once the epicentre of Dawood Ibrahim’s operations in the city, along with Temkar Mohalla.
Today, the violence, intimidation and trepidation associated with the stomping grounds of the dreaded gangster are not visible -- at least not on the surface. Late afternoon, you can hear the clanging of utensils from a nearby caterer and the giggles of Bohra girls walking past. You can see labourers taking a break at the nearby paan shop, and wiry men lying supine against closed shutters, sharing space with parked cycles. This seemingly routine Mumbai street scene is set to the incessant honking of cars lined up at the nearby JJ signal.
There are enough reports, however, of a threatening hostility experienced by the police, mediapersons and even the curious passerby. So much so that this cramped urban hamlet has been referred to as “The Republic of Pakmodia Street”, “Don’s Den” and other phrases of similar import.
S Hussain Zaidi in his book, Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of Mumbai Mafia (buy the book), in fact writes of how Dawood made his presence felt in the area as a local thug, graduating from being the son of a police constable to a global terrorist on this very street.
'Musafirkhana (on Pakmodia Street, where the Kaskars resided) became the unofficial headquarters for the budding Dawood gang,' he writes. But Musafirkhana isn’t the only building to have gained notoriety for its infamous inhabitants.
Located at the corner of Pakmodia and Yakub streets, the Kaskar family -- including its most famous member, Dawood Ibrahim -- is said to have lived here. Dawood fled the country in 1986. While he was followed soon by his brothers, an Indian Express report mentions his mother Aminabai staying on in the building.
'After her death, the first floor was given to a madrassa where Muslim girls were imparted Quran lessons and also taught tailoring,' the report says. When Dawood’s brother Iqbal Kaskar was deported to India in 2003 though, he started using the property. He reportedly lived on the fourth floor and used the first floor as his “office” after clearing out the madrassa.
The building is said to have 18 flats and eight shops, all reportedly owned by Kaskar and occupied by tenants. Not only has the building been declared illegal for misusing Floor Space Index, notices were issued under the Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act-1976 for its underworld connections and dilapidated state.
The latter issue became paramount after the collapse of Hussaini Manzil close by. So much so, that Kaskar shifted to Gordon Hall in Nagpada, which belonged to his late sister, Haseena Parkar.
A two-storey building on Yakub Street, reports claim this property was bought in the name of Dawood’s wife Mehjabeen. Mired in litigation for long along with Damarwala Building, the decks were cleared for the auction of the two properties in January when the Appellate Tribunal for Forfeited Property dismissed 27 appeals of people claiming to be “long-term tenants”.
Hotel Ronak Afroz (Delhi Zaika)
'Hotel Ronak Afroz, now known as Delhi Zaika, is one of the first properties purchased by Dawood when he took control of the smuggling business from his mentor Haji Mastan,' says the Indian Express report. This property went under the hammer in 2015.
Former journalist S Balakrishnan, representing an NGO, had won the bid at Rs 4.28 crore but couldn’t raise the necessary amount due to which the property was auctioned again. This time the earnest money deposit for the property was fixed at Rs 23.72 lakh (Rs 6.28 lakh less than the 2015 auction) while the reserve price is Rs 1.18 crore.
SAFEMA (Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators) had reserved the price of five flats in Damarwala Building at Rs 1.55 crore and Shabnam Guesthouse at Rs 1.21 crore. While the earnest money for the former was kept at Rs 62.30 lakh, that of the guesthouse was fixed at Rs 48.57 lakh.
In each instance, the reserve price was much lower than the prevailing market rate. An India Today report says the total reserve price for the combined properties -- with a plot size of 3,241 sq ft -- is about Rs 4 crore, which is “quite less as compared to the present property rate of Rs 13,000-15,000 per sq ft in Bhendi Bazaar”. The market price for Hotel Ronak Afroz alone is said to be anything between Rs 6 and 8 crore now.
The curiously low reserve prices could be a function of the fact that different agencies have tried to auction Ibrahim’s properties over the years but found no takers. Given the subliminal fear the gangster commands over city residents, it doesn’t seem fanciful to attribute the lack of enthusiastic buyers for the 2001, 2013 and 2015 auctions to this fear.
Ibrahim is said to have kept a close eye on the proceedings in 2015. At the time, Balakrishnan claimed that he received a threat SMS from underworld don Chhota Shakeel, asking him to withdraw from the auction. Swami Chakrapani, president of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, though, went ahead and bought a Hyundai Accent car that belonged to Dawood for Rs 32,000 at the same auction.
Litigation is another problem area. Delhi-based advocate Ajay Shrivastava, who successfully bid for a shop in Tardeo in 2001, is yet to get possession of the property after Haseena Parkar, and later her children, filed cases contesting the auction.
Still, he is now contemplating participating in the November auction, which includes three other properties. These include a flat in Pearl Harbour building at Mazgaon, tenancy rights of a room in Dadriwala Chawl at Saifee Jubilee Street, and a 600 sq m factory plot in Aurangabad -- all properties suspected to be associated with Ibrahim.
The auction is being seen as another bid by Indian agencies to stamp out Dawood Ibrahim and his underworld network. In September, Kaskar was arrested in an alleged extortion case. A severe blow came in September when authorities in the United Kingdom seized Dawood’s properties in the country, including his hotel in Warwickshire and residential properties across the Midlands. The gangster’s name also featured on the UK Treasury Department’s Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets, updated in September.
That Dawood Ibrahim has business interests in more than a dozen countries spread over Europe, Africa and South Asia is well known. Forbes believes he is one of the richest gangsters of all time: in 2015, the magazine estimated his net assets at $6.7 billion (Rs 43, 806 crore).
A paragraph from the report, which placed him at 50th position, goes, 'Power has been called many things. The ultimate aphrodisiac. An absolute corrupter. A mistress. A violin. But its true nature remains elusive. After all, a head of state wields a very different state of power than a religious figure. Can one really compare the influence of a journalist to that of a terrorist? And is power unexercised, power at all?'
Is the power unexercised though? The Hindu pointed to the gang’s involvement in the Rs 4,000-crore Bhendi Bazaar redevelopment pie, claiming that the gang continues to flourish in the city more than two decades after Dawood Ibrahim’s involvement in the 1993 serial blasts.