The wife of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist David Headley, one of the main conspirators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, and a business partner, have “refused” to answer questions posed by NIA, citing a privacy clause.
The agency had approached Shazia, the US-based wife of the American-born Headley, and Raymond Sanders, his business partner, through the US Department of Justice, for helping it get answers to some of the questions related to Headley. The 55-year-old terrorist is undergoing a prison term of 35 years in an American jail for his role in plotting the terror strikes in Mumbai and Denmark.
Official sources said both of them “refused” to answer any questions, citing a “privacy” clause. As per the US law, since neither of them is an accused in the case, they can accept or deny requests for examination by a foreign law enforcement agency.
The investigators had approached them as they feel Headley had stonewalled information about his family and that they had knowledge of his activities in India and his links with the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba.
According to the 106-page dossier of the NIA, Headley had told the Indian investigators that they should not ask him any questions pertaining to his immediate family. The dossier was prepared after the detailed questioning of Headley in the US in 2010.
“I got married to Shazia Gilani in Pakistan in the year 1999... I do not want to discuss the details of my in-law’s family as they have nothing to do with my activities...,” Headley is quoted as having said in the dossier.
Further stonewalling information about his immediate family, especially his first wife, Headley told the NIA team that “my request would be not to ask questions relating to my immediate family members”.
According to the Chicago court records, Shazia watched on TV the terror strikes unfold in Mumbai and used code words like “I am watching cartoons” to describe the 26/11 strikes.
“I’ve been watching these cartoons (attacks) all day and I am proud of you,” Shazia wrote in an email to Headley during the strikes. In her congratulatory message, she also said how proud she was at his graduation (success of attacks). This was stated by Headley on May 27, 2011, the fourth day of the trial of co-accused Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana.
He told defence attorney Patrick W Belgan that after the Mumbai attacks began many people congratulated him, besides Shazia, who was even aware of his plans for Denmark attacks and had booked plane tickets for him from Denmark to Frankfurt to Dubai and Pakistan.
Sanders, who owns First World Immigration Service in Chicago’s Devon Avenue, is believed to have helped Headley in securing a multiple-entry visa to India and setting up an immigration centre in Mumbai.
Headley along with Rana had submitted business sponsor letter from the Immigrant Law Center owned by Sanders, a US national. However, the plan failed as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) rejected an application by Headley seeking clearance to open a business account in June 2007.
Interestingly, Sanders who had earlier assisted Headley in getting an Indian visa, also helped him in completing the formalities with regard to RBI, but the central bank rejected the application on June 1, 2007.
The NIA wanted to know about his knowledge of Headley’s association with LeT and whether he was aware that the name of his group was being used as a front to route terror funds to India, the sources said.
Headley, whose original name was Daood Gilani, has two half-brothers -- Hamza and Daanyal Gilani -- both of them officers in the Pakistan Government.
Headley had told NIA in 2010 that “Daanyal was also posted as the information officer in the then Prime Minister (Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani’s) office and my father worked in the Pakistan Broadcasting Department. He had gone to the US on deputation to Voice of America.”
Sources close to the investigation said Headley’s father Sayed Salim Gilani, a Pakistani diplomat and former Director General of Radio Pakistan, traced his ancestry to the same Gilani family to which the then Prime minister belongs.