Extraditing drug baron Iqbal Mohammed Memon, aka Iqbal Mirchi, who was arrested in London on Tuesday, is going to be a task for agencies in India. The police are gearing up with the appropriate paperwork, but some officers are doubtful of landing him in their net, given the first attempt to secure his extradition seven years ago climaxed in an expensive fiasco.
In 2004, the Indian government not only lost the extradition case against Mirchi, but also ended up paying Rs 70 lakh of the taxpayer's money to compensate for the legal costs the drug lord had incurred while defending himself. The extradition request was turned down when magistrates at Bow Street court decided that the evidence against Mirchi was not clinching. India did not appeal, and paid the legal costs.
In the same year, Mirchi had expressed his willingness to return to India. But he put forth a condition that on his arrival, he be taken into judicial custody. The Indian government who had been waiting to interrogate him in several cases including the 1993 bomb blasts case refused to accept his terms.
There are other concerns. Despite continuing efforts of agencies, some Crime Branch and CBI officials are sceptical of getting him extradited. "Mirchi has strong connections. He could expose the whereabouts of several other Indian fugitive gangsters. These gangsters will definitely employ all their resources to help him seek a release before our government gets hold of him," said an officer from Mumbai Crime Branch.
But some officials are hopeful. "We have the right paperwork this time and will definitely get him," said a Central Bureau Investigation (CBI) officer on condition of anonymity.
Mumbai Crime Branch Chief Himanshu Roy, while confirming Mirchi's arrest, said, "We are in touch with the Interpol through CBI. But we haven't got any official information yet."
"Twelve cases have been registered against Mirchi in Mumbai. Among them two are for murder, three attempts to murder, four for intimidation and three under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS)," said Roy.
The arrest London Police arrested Mirchi on Tuesday evening for threatening a local businessman.
The 61-year-old, a close associate of India's Most Wanted Dawood Ibrahim, has been staying in England for the past 20 years. He owns a six-bedroom house and a luxury hotel there.
In 1995, the Scotland Yard had raided Mirchi's home and arrested him on charges of drugs and in connection with the 1993 Mumbai blasts, but he succeeded in getting a bail.
CBI officials suspect Mirchi's drug empire stretches across Afghanistan, Africa, Europe and the US. The entire business is worth Rs 2,000 crore.