D-gang routed WhatsApp audio messages to avoid tracking: NIA

The NIA found this in its probe, as revealed in the agency’s charge sheet.

Bhavna UchilUpdated: Monday, November 07, 2022, 11:16 PM IST
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Underworld don and gangster Dawood Ibrahim | Photo: Representative Image

To avoid communication traces, D-gang members used Whatsapp’s end-to-end encrypted communication and sent push-to-talk (PTT) audio messages to multiple users for layering before they were delivered to fugitive terrorist Dawood Ibrahim and gangster Chhota Shakeel in Pakistan. The NIA found this in its probe, as revealed in the agency’s charge sheet.

The NIA filed its charge sheet on Saturday against Arif Shaikh, Shabbir Shaikh, and Salim Qureshi - a relative of Shakeel and has named Dawood and Shakeel as wanted accused. It said the D-gang members raised funds through extortion of individuals to raise funds for terror acts in Mumbai and other parts of the country.

To hide communication tracks, by creating layers, it said, Arif Shaikh used to record audio messages on his mobile phone and send it to three WhatsApp numbers of Shabbir Shaikh, who would further send them to Chhota Shakeel. The agency said both Arif and Shabbir, both of whom it called habitual offenders involved in extortion, and land grabbing among other crimes, used WhatsApp end-to-end encrypted communication and created multiple layers between them by sending the audio messages by routing through multiple users for final delivery to Shakeel and Dawood in Pakistan. The agency said it found this through statements of witnesses and a forensic study of the mobile Shabbir. 

Its probe also found that in April this year, Shakeel sent Rs. 25 lakhs through hawala channels from Pakistan to India via Dubai for committing terrorist activities and “big sensational events” in Mumbai. The money belonged to him and terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, its probe has revealed, it stated.

Two hawala operators - a Pakistani national based in Dubai and a Malad-based operator played a role in the transfer of the money to Shabbir The NIA’s probe has revealed, it claimed, that Arif Shaikh and Shabbir Shaikh received the amount on the instructions of Dawood and Shakeel. The money went from Pakistan to Dubai and from there to Surat and finally reached Mumbai through hawala to avoid being traced. 

The agency said its probe also revealed that the Dubai-based Pakistani hawala operator used to accept work of hawala money transfer from Dawood and Shakeel and would send the amounts to India. In the last four years, it said, he has sent Rs. 12 to 13 crores to India, as revealed by a protected witness. 

In 2011, the charge sheet further said, Salim Fruit under the direction of Shakeel and the leadership of Dawood, threatened to kill two witnesses and their families and grabbed two flats totally worth around Rs. 2.7 crores. The money generated from the sale of these flats was sent by hawala channels by him to Shakeel and Dawood.  

The charge sheet also mentioned an instance where an official of a trust that works for redeveloping a market area in South Mumbai waived off Rs. 70 lakhs that had to be paid to it by Fruit and his partners as part of a contract agreement involving building demolition work or sale and purchase. The official had done so under fear of Shakeel and Fruit. 

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