A close aide of fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim has been arrested by the Anti-Terrorism Squad(ATS) of Maharashtra on Wednesday. Akhtar Kasamali Merchant (56) was arrested from Nalasopara. Notably, he is accused of kidnapping and demanding Rs. 50 lakhs ransom from a businessman in Naya Nagar area of Mira Road.
Assistant Police Inspector(API) Mansing Patil of the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) said that Merchant has been associated with Dawood Ibrahim for a long time and worked for him. Later, he set up his own gang and was wanted for several offences including extortion and kidnapping in Thane and Vasai-Virar belt.
Patil said that Merchant’s henchman had kidnapped the businessman from Naya Nagar on gun-point and demanded Rs. 50 lakh ransom for his release. “He had formed his own outfit a few years ago. He had unleashed terror in Gujarat and Thane rural district through a series of body offences, kidnapping and extortion activities,” Patil said.
A case under IPC sections 364(A) (kidnapping for ransom) and 384 (extortion) and provisions of the Arms Act was registered against Merchant at Naya Nagar Police Station in 2018. He was hiding in Bangladesh since 2018. Ironically, Merchant was planning to flee to Nairobi.
The ATS is sure that Merchant before his arrest was in contact with Ibrahim. “He spent more than USD 2,000 in Bangladesh to get a passport from that country, but failed to get one,” said an officer on the condition of anonymity.
Recently Merchant returned to Mumbai. “After receiving a tip-off that he was back in Nalasopara area, a trap was laid and we nabbed him when he was about to meet his wife,” said the officer.
Officials said that it is the gangster who had helped Merchant flee Mumbai and it is he who had helped Merchant in hiding in Nepal and Bangladesh. Police are hoping now that by checking the calls made by Merchant they can find out where Dawood Ibrahim is currently hiding.
However, Merchant has been handed over to the Naya Nagar police for further investigation. Patil said that the Naya Nagar police has taken Merchant’s custody for investigation in the kidnapping case.
Police said that Merchant was planning to flee to Nairobi where he is believed to have a second wife.