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From school dropout to gangster

mumbai Updated: Jan 18, 2012 01:18 IST
Debasish Panigrahi

Once a name to be reckoned with, Abdul Quuyum Ansari aka Abu Salem, 44, was a fugitive on the run for nearly a decade before he was rounded up in Lisbon in 2002.

From a school dropout in Sarai Mir in Azamgarh district to his inclusion in Mumbai’s mafia, Salem was likened to a cunning fox, who played his cards when the opportunity presented itself.

Old timers in Mumbai police said Salem came to the city in the early 1980s with his cousin Akhtar, a small-time criminal in Jogeshwari. Salem started off with a manual job in Aziz Glass Company at SV Road before he opened his own business of selling chappals at Arfa Shopping Centre in Andheri (West).

Soon, he began dabbling in real estate brokerage as well as sending job aspirants to the Gulf. Reportedly Salem had befriended JJ Ibrahim, a gold smuggler, through Dawood’s landing agent from Vasai, Bhai Thakur. It was Ibrahim who introduced him to Dawood’s brother Anees Ibrahim.

Salem’s name first cropped in the Mumbai police’s crime dossier after his role in carrying an arms consignment during the 1993 serial blasts was disclosed.

Salem fled to Anees’ home in Dubai and over the years handled his hawala operations before graduating to extortions. He developed a liking for Bollywood after producer Mukhesh Duggal introduced him to struggling actor Monica Bedi. Through Bedi, Salem went on expanding his notoriety in the industry.

Underworld observers said fearing Dawood’s wrath Salem fled from Dubai after his men gunned down Gulshan Kumar in 1997. But he continued to have considerable sway over Bollywood. He was behind the attack on producer Rajiv Rai in 1997 and the murder of Manisha Koirala’s secretary Ajit Diwani in 2000. This was followed by attacks on directors Lawrence D’Souza and Rakesh Roshan. By the time of his arrest, Salem had depleted his resources in Mumbai as his men were killed or arrested.

It is believed Dawood gave the tip-off about his movements in Portugal.