Mumbai: 21 months after they were arrested and convicted to 10-years imprisonment by a Qatar court for allegedly carrying drugs to the middle-eastern country, Mohammad Shareeq Qureshi and his wife Oniba will finally land in India with a baby born in jail on Wednesday, and will be able to celebrate Ramzan this year with their family.
Mohammad Shareeq and Oniba had gone on a “second honeymoon” to Qatar in July 2019 – a gift from Shareeq’s paternal aunt Tabassum Riyaz Qureshi – when they were arrested at Hamad International Airport in Doha for carrying 4.1 kilograms of hashish in their baggage.
The couple had claimed ignorance, and pleaded innoncence, about the content of the packet and told authorities in Qatar that the packet was given to them by their aunt who had sponsored their “honeymoon” to Qatar. Shareeq and Oniba were put to trial in Qatar by the prosecution agencies and the Supreme Judiciary Council of Qatar had sentenced both of them to serve 10 years in jail and a fine of 300 thousands Riyal individually.
Family of the couple then approached the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to look into the matter after which the NCB busted the module involved in the said drug trafficking case and raised the issue with Qatar authorities using diplomatic channels.
After persistent efforts by the Indian authorities and Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) that the couple was framed by their relative who sponsored their honeymoon visit and trapped them by handing them over a package containing contraband, the Qatar authorities reopened th case and acquitted them in March this year.
Speaking about the case, deputy director of Operations (NCB), KPS Malhotra said, "On September 27, 2019, Shareeq's father Shakeel Qureshi filed a complaint with NCB alleging that Oniba and Shareeq were deceived by Shareeq's aunt Tabassum Riyaz Qureshi and her associate Nizam Kara. Tabassum and Nizam had concealed the contraband in the luggage bags given to Shareeq and Oniba, who they had supposedly sponsored a honeymoon.”
He added, Shakeel Qureshi had provided relevant documents and a compact disc containing the audio recordings between Shareeq and Tabussum, along with the complaint. A detailed enquiry was initiated by NCB into the allegations levelled by Shakeel Qureshi and it was learnt that a well-organized drug trafficking syndicate was being run by Kara involving Tabussum and others. A close surveillance was mounted against these drug syndicate members by NCB.
On December 22, 2019, Nagpada police seized 13 grams of cocaine from Kara and Tabassum and arrested them. Simultaneously, on February 26, 2020, an NCB team intercepted a consignment of the 1.474 kilograms of charas belonging to the same syndicate in Chandigarh and arrested four persons - Ved Ram, Maheshwar, Shahnawaz Gulam Choratwala and Shabana in the said offence.
"During investigation of this case, it surfaced that at the behest of Nizam Kara and his wife Shaheeda, this consignment was procured by Shahnawaz Gulam Choratwala and Shabana. All the financial arrangements for this consignment of drug was made by Shaheeda on the directions of Nizam Kara. On September 07, Nizam Kara was granted bail in the Mumbai case. After coming out of jail, Nizam Kara changed his residence. Efforts were made to trace him. On October 14, 2020 Nizam Kara and Shaheeda were examined wherein Nizam admitted that Shareeq and Oniba were sent to Qatar by him and his associate Tabassum. The couple were handed over the luggage bag purported to be containing Zarda and Tobacco by them, whereas contraband was concealed in the luggage instead of Zarda and Tobacco. Further communication is being made with concerned authorities to raise the issue at the diplomatic level," said Malhotra.
"Last month, the Qatar authorities acquitted them of the drug charges, and the couple would be deported back to Mumbai on Wednesday. We were able to prove their innocence," Malhotra told FPJ.
"This Ramazan has indeed brought the best new for our family. My children and granddaughter would come back to us. It has been a painful wait for me and my family. I thank the Indian government and NCB for taking up the issue diplomatically and ensuring justice to us," Shakeel Qureshi told FPJ.