Excerpt from Black Friday: Before and after the arrest of Yakub Memon, 1993 Mumbai blasts convict
The Supreme Court rejected Yakub Memon’s plea against the death penalty and he is now scheduled to be hanged on 30 July.
Editor's note: The Supreme Court rejected Yakub Memon’s plea against the death penalty and he is now scheduled to be hanged on 30 July. The 1993 Mumbai blasts convict is the younger brother of the prime accused in the serial blasts, Tiger Memon, who is still absconding and is believed to be in Pakistan.
As the nation awaits Yakub’s execution in less than a week’s time, here is an excerpt from investigative journalist and author S. Hussain Zaidi’s acclaimed book on the blasts, Black Friday (2002), in which he wrote in detail about who Yakub Memon really is, how he became the lone conspirator to be caught alive, and how he hoped that his return would clear his family’s name.
The following is an excerpt from the book Black Friday:
By the time Yaqub Abdul Razak Memon, the third of the Memon brothers, was in his early thirties, he had already acquired the reputation of being the best read and smartest criminal that the Bombay police had ever known.
But Yaqub’s story was unusual. Educated in English-medium schools and college, he graduated with a degree in commerce. He became a chartered accountant in 1990. His accountancy firm was quickly successful, and in 1992 he won an award for the best chartered accountant in the Memon community.
In 1991, he launched an accounting firm called Mehta and Memon Associates, with his childhood friend Chetan Mehta. Later there was a third partner: a fellow accountancy student Ghulam Bhoira. When this firm closed down in 1992 Yaqub started another called AR & Sons. He also set up an export firm, Tejareth International, with its office at Samrat Cooperative Society, Mahim, to export meat to the Middle East. So great was Yaqub’s financial success that he bought six flats in the Al-Hussaini building, Mahim, where Tiger owned two duplex flats. In the same year, he married Raheen in a lavish ceremony at the Islam Gymkhana, and many people from the film world attended the wedding. He and Tiger were dimetrically opposed to each other in nature. One had no compunctions about making money by illegal means; the other was suave, educated and successful through legitimate means.
It was inevitable that there should be friction between the two most successful Memon brothers. Another source of friction was that Tiger allegedly ill-treated his wife Shabana, and had an extramarital relationship. After one particularly vicious dispute, Abdul Razak turned Tiger and Shabana out of the family flat. Shabana and her children were soon allowed to return, and Tiger too returned to the family home about a year before the blasts.
It was Yaqub’s well-known financial acumen that made the investigators suspect his involvement in the blasts case. During the investigations, it was found that complex financial transactions had taken place through several of Tiger’s accounts, and the police assumed that Yaqub must have organized these.
The crime branch alleged that Yaqub had remitted Rs 21, 90,000 to Samir Hingora and Hanif Kadawala on 13 March 1993 to distribute to the other accused. The payment was supposedly arranged over the phone so that there were no records.
During their search of the Memon flats in Al-Hussaini, the police had come across documents that showed that the family had four NRI accounts at the Turner Road, Bandra, branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). The accounts were in the names of Tiger’s brother Ayub Memon (account number 11679297-07), his wife Reshma Memon (account number 11679813-07), Tiger’s brother Suleiman’s wife Rubina Memon (account number 11979321-07) and Tiger’s wife Shabana Memon (account number 11679305-07). The police said that $61,700 was deposited in cash in the British Bank of Middle East, Dubai, from there it was transferred to Marine Midland Bank in New York, USA, and then to these accounts in HSBC. They suspected that this was an attempt to conceal the source of the money. Yaqub had the authority to handle the accounts of the entire family and they suspected that he had used this money to pay various people, including his own company. Since the entire amount was tendered at the British Bank of the Middle East in Dubai, the police thought that somebody had financed the operation, fully or at least partly, from abroad.
The police also discovered that between December 1992 and March 1993, various accounts at the Mahim branch of the Development Cooperative Bank in the names of Tejareth International and Al-Taj Exports as well as the personal accounts of the Memon family showed heavy cash transactions. The balance in all these accounts on 12 March stood at meagre amounts. Clearly the accounts had been emptied prior to the blasts.
All this careful financial planning made the investigators conclude that Yaqub Memon must have been involved. Accordingly, in December 1993, a reward of Rs 5 lakh was offered for anyone who had information about his whereabouts.
After the arrest
Yaqub sat in the darkened room and gazed at the ceiling. There was hardly any sound around him, and he felt cut off from the world. He thought about how his life had changed, of Raheen, who was due to have their first child in the first week of August. It was now 9 August, and he did not know if he was a father yet. He wished passionately that he had not left Bombay on 9 March. They would have undoubtedly faced a lot of trouble, but they would not have been branded traitors.
He had now spent twelve days with CBI officers, patiently answering their questions for hours every day. He had celebrated a mournful thirty-second birthday on 30 July.
A CBI officer came to him and told him that he was to give an interview on television.
Yaqub looked at him blankly. ‘What interview?’
The officer grinned broadly. ‘You’re about to become a celebrity. It will be on the national TV—Doordarshan—and the whole of India is going to watch you.’
Yaqub was in half a mind to refuse, when it struck him that he could use this opportunity to let ninety crore of his countrymen know that apart from Tiger Memon, the other Memons were decent, law-abiding citizens. He asked the officer, ‘When am I supposed to be on television?’
‘We have to go in for a recording now, it will be aired later tonight.’
He was escorted to the Doordarshan studio. The programme on which he was being interviewed was Newstrack, a half-hour news analysis show. In response to the questions, he narrated the tale of his journey to Kathmandu, his interception at the airport, and his handing over to the CBI. He stated that it was Tiger Memon and Taufiq Jaliawala who had been the kingpins, and explained how Tiger had been used by the ISI in the plot.
Yaqub spoke at length about the role played by Taufiq Jaliawala. It was Jaliawala who had coordinated with Dubai and Bombay on behalf of the Pakistani authorities, and played a major role in selecting the blast sites. Jaliawala’s construction business, automobile shop and sari emporium in Karachi were merely fronts for his more lucrative illegal businesses. He was a close associate of Dawood Ibrahim, and of Tiger Memon. When the Memons moved to Karachi, Jaliawala had initially given them shelter in his own bungalow, and aided them in securing new identity cards and passports. He had also given shelter to about ten of the men directly involved in the blasts, including Javed Chikna and Anwar Theba, Tiger’s two most senior aides— when they had arrived in Karachi. Yaqub also described the wedding of Jaliawala’s daughter Rabia to Farooq, son of Feroze Dadi of Crawford Market, Bombay, on 30 April 1994. Many prominent citizens of Bombay, and underworld leaders from Bombay and Dubai had been invited and Jaliawala had indicated that he would rather the Memons did not attend as it would cause embarrassment if anyone from Bombay recognized them.
Apart from Jaliawala, there was another smuggler, Sayed Arif, also working from Dubai, who had aided Tiger Memon. With the money lent by Jaliawala and Arif, the Memon family had built a lavish bungalow called Ahmed House, which had cost Pakistani Rs 1.16 crore, in the Karachi Development Scheme area. However, despite material comforts, the Memon family was not happy exiled from their native land. From Yaqub’s account, the family came across as good Indians, only circumstantially connected to the blasts and now in danger.
Excerpted with permission from Black Friday, S. Hussain Zaidi, Penguin Books India
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