Mumbai: The Mumbai police crime branch’s Anti-Extortion Cell (AEC) has summoned several associates, business partners, Customs clearing agents and courier company officials for questioning in the case related to arrested drug trafficker Ali Asgar Shirazi.
Dirty drug money laundering
AEC officials summoned Sakinaka-based enterprise Hustlers Hospitality promoter Krunal Oza and questioned him on Saturday about a $1 million investment in the cloud kitchen business by Falisha Venture Capital run by Shirazi. The police suspect the profits from narcotics trafficking were invested into Hustlers Hospitality to launder dirty drug money.
According to senior crime branch officials, Oza gave evasive replies and claimed ignorance about business partner Shirazi’s criminal background. An officer privy to the investigation said that Oza claimed to have met Shirazi last year and got seed feed for cloud kitchen from Falisha. He was confronted with evidence of his earlier meetings with Shiraz in 2019 and business proposals given for investments, the officer said. The crime branch suspects cafés and cloud kitchen were a front for money laundering and drug distribution rackets.
The Mumbai police arrested Shirazi, considered to be the right hand man of drug lord Kailash Rajput, while attempting to flee to Dubai from Mumbai airport in the early hours. The police are probing the rapid growth and expansion of Hustlers incorporated in 2020 after Shirazi’s appointment as additional director last year.
Chain of cafes as front to launder drug money
Hustlers had signed a few failed and struggling actors, including Big Boss contestant Abdu Rozik and Shiv Thakare, to open a chain of cafés as a front to launder drug money. Café Burgiir and Thakare’s Chai & Snacks were amongst the chain operated by Shirazi to expand drug distribution and launder narcotics’ cash into legitimate businesses.
Both Big Boss contestants were paid a paltry ₹10 lakh signing amount and promised huge royalties on sales, while a contract was allegedly signed for ₹25 crore investment in the cafés operated in their names.
According to the information received from the crime branch, several names are coming up during Shirazi’s interrogation which need to be verified for relation with the drug trafficker.
“We have learnt that Shirazi was a partner in Hustlers and called Oza on Saturday to record his statement and question him,” said a crime branch official. Sources said they will record statements of various people working at Mumbai airport as well.