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In September 2009, then FBI director Robert Muller met then home minister P Chidambaram at the Willard Hotel in Washington and the two decided to cooperate in nabbing Pakistan-based underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
The American agency had found footprints of D-company in two to three cases in the US.
As Muller wanted Indian help in “choking the Dawood network from all sides”, Chidambaram, after talking to Indian counter-terror officials, agreed to cooperate with the FBI and exchange information.
In October-November 2010, an FBI team comprising around 11 officials came to Delhi to discuss the D-company network with the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) of the Intelligence Bureau.
The FBI team described in great detail their project and plans to nab Dawood and asked for information support from the IB. Then additional director (MAC) Ashok Prasad agreed to the US request and the information exchange took place.
But the joint-venture turned out to be stillborn. No follow-up action was taken and in July 2012, Ashok Prasad left the IB to become the director-general of Jammu and Kashmir police. Both sides have hardly discussed the issue since.
But the topic was touched upon when home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde met then FBI director Muller in May, 2013.
“Barely given the initial boost during Chidambaram’s time, the Dawood account has been lying closed, with the Indian agencies not going beyond sending dossiers routinely to Pakistan,” said a senior home ministry official.
Dawood, meanwhile, is operating from Pakistan’s Karachi with impunity. He has invested heavily into real estate in Mumbai and Gulf and these days, is interested in Pakistan’s defence industry under the patronage of Islamabad.
His voice is often picked up in telephone intercepts to India, the US and the Gulf countries. “Dawood and his lieutenant Chota Shakeel use voice-over internet protocol to mask their home base. But telephone calls have been traced to Karachi despite Pakistan government’s routine denials,” said a counter-terror official.
While the FBI is understood to have homed in on organised crime networks on basis of presidential order, the Dawood account in India is separately handled by IB, Mumbai police, Gujarat and the Delhi police, using technical surveillance.
Even as former home secretary and BJP member RK Singh accuses Shinde of lying about FBI help to arrest Dawood, the fact is that anti-D-Company operation is more of lip service than a dedicated project.