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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

Morani, Bhatt attacks: Key accused in custody of US federal agency

Multiple sources, who did not wish to be named, confirmed that ICE took Radiowala into custody in September 2017 for illegally staying in the US, and an immigration court in New Jersey recently ordered the 46-year-old’s “removal” from the country.

mumbai Updated: Mar 28, 2019 05:02 IST
Farhan Shaikh
Morani, Bhatt attacks: Key accused in custody of US federal agency
Morani, Bhatt attacks: Key accused in custody of US federal agency (HT File Photo)
         

Obed Radiowala, a key accused in the 2014 cases of firing on Bollywood film-maker Karim Morani and conspiracy to kill Mahesh Bhatt, is currently in custody of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and is set to be “removed” from the country.

Multiple sources, who did not wish to be named, confirmed that ICE took Radiowala into custody in September 2017 for illegally staying in the US, and an immigration court in New Jersey recently ordered the 46-year-old’s “removal” from the country.

Confirming his detention, ICE, in an e-mail response to HT’s queries, said, “Ubaidullah Abdul Rashid Radiowala, also known as Obed Radiowala, an Indian national illegally present in the United States, has been ordered removed from the US and is being held in ICE custody pending his removal. An Interpol Red Notice has been issued for Radiowala, as he is wanted in India for attem-pted murder, criminal conspiracy, extortion, forgery, cheating, theft, use and possession of illegal firearms and transmission of information by using internet to form organised crime syndicate.”

Currently, however, it is unclear as to when and how Radiowala entered the US.

The prosecution case in India claims that the conspiracy in the Morani firing case started over a dispute about overseas rights of the Bollywood film ‘Happy New Year’, which was produced by the Morani brothers. Radiowala was threatening the producers on behalf of Pujari, and later members of the latter’s gang opened fire at the Moranis’ Juhu bungalow in 2014.

The accused were arrested later in the year while they were preparing an attack near Bhatt’s residence in Khar.

During the probe, the Mumbai police crime branch found chat transcripts of an internet-based messenger service between Radiowala and his brother, Anees Merchant – also an accused in the case – where they were allegedly found to be discussing both the attacks.

The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court had last year convicted 10 people for conspiring to kill Bhatt. The accused, who were sentenced to five years imprisonment, were members of Pujari’s gang and had planned the attack on the instructions of Pujari, the prosecution had said. However, the court held that the charge of the accused being part of Pujari’s organised crime syndicate has not been established by the prosecution. Hence, they were acquitted from charges of the MCOCA.

The trial of the Morani case is underway.

In 2015, the MCOCA court had issued a fresh non-bailable warrant against Radiowala, after which the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had sought a Red Corner Notice (RCN) against him.