ORGANISED CRIME ANALYSIS
‘Gold Mafia’ whistle-blower places wanted terrorist Dawood Ibrahim in Gupta, Zuma circles
Dawood Ibrahim is one of India’s most wanted terror suspects and is accused of working with the Taliban. An Al Jazeera exposé places him in this country during Jacob Zuma’s presidency – and in State Capture circles.
In the mid-1990s, Dawood Ibrahim of India was under investigation for mass Mandrax smuggling as he moved around the African continent, including through South Africa.
A Government Gazette showed that Ibrahim, who heads a notorious syndicate called D-Company, was using various aliases, 14 different passports and was associated with al-Qaeda.
Sources in cop circles have for years suspected Ibrahim has had the protection of state elements in South Africa, in apartheid times and in the democracy era – as well as help in other countries.
India’s National Investigation Agency currently lists him as a most wanted “absconder”.
Terrorism and Taliban protection
A previous Indian government notice said Ibrahim ran “an international underworld crime syndicate and is involved in perpetrating acts of terror, promoting religious fundamentalism, terror financing, arms smuggling, circulation of counterfeit currency, money laundering, narcotics, [and] extortion.”
In 2003, the US labelled him “a Specially Designated Global Terrorist”. It also released a fact sheet on Ibrahim, saying he was the son of a police constable and became one of India’s most “pre-eminent criminals”.
“In the late 1990s, Ibrahim traveled in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban,” the fact sheet said.
“He is currently wanted by India for the March 12 1993 Bombay Exchange bombings, which killed hundreds of Indians and injured over a thousand more.”
In 2003, the year the US designated him a global terrorist, the Times of India reported that Ibrahim was expected at a cricket match in Centurion in South Africa.
Questions were asked about whether he had been present in the stadium with Jackie Selebi, South Africa’s national police commissioner at the time, who went on to become president of the international police organisation Interpol.
Selebi was subsequently convicted of corruption in another case.
‘Gold Mafia’ allegations
Now, fresh allegations have been made about Ibrahim’s presence in South Africa, placing him in the same circles as the Guptas and former president Jacob Zuma.
The allegations were in news television channel Al Jazeera’s investigative unit four-part series Gold Mafia.
The investigation delves into gold smuggling and money laundering gangs operating in southern Africa and includes evidence in the form of documents, whistle-blower accounts and secretly filmed footage.
In the series, Mohamed Khan, a South African, is alleged to be a top-tier money launderer, also known as “Mo Dollars”, who knew Zuma so well that the former head of state had been to his home.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Global terrorist’ Dawood Ibrahim’s lasting grip on South Africa
An AmaBhungane report from October last year showed Khan was on the South African Revenue Service’s radar.
In Gold Mafia, it was also alleged that Khan managed companies and laundered money on behalf of members of the Gupta family, who are at the centre of State Capture claims.
Hotels in Sandton and Dubai
In Episode 4, released last week, Khan’s brother Dawood, who has gone into hiding, was filmed saying he started working with Khan in 2011.
He alleged a meeting was held at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton around that time.
Aside from Khan and a man named Suhail Jiwani (an alleged money launderer who died in 2020), a third individual had arrived at the hotel with bodyguards.
Dawood said he later realised this was Ibrahim.
A few months later, he allegedly again saw Ibrahim, who was trying to stay out of public view, at a Dubai hotel that had strict security measures, including cameras.
State Capture circles
Dubai has recently been in the news because Atul and Rajesh Gupta, wanted in connection with South African State Capture crimes, were quietly freed from custody by emirati officials in February. South Africa had been pushing for their extradition.
Meanwhile, according to Gold Mafia, Khan has labelled all allegations against him as false.
If the allegations turn out to be true, it would mean Khan connects the Guptas, Zuma and Ibrahim.
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It would also hint at just how globally bolstered State Capture is in South Africa.
This week, Daily Maverick contacted the Michelangelo Hotel and asked if Ibrahim had visited there and if law enforcement authorities had ever approached members of staff about it.
A hotel representative responded: “We can unfortunately not assist with your email [query].”
The South African Police Service was not able to respond to a Daily Maverick query about Ibrahim by the time of publication.
D-Company in South Africa
In this journalist’s book Clash of the Cartels – Unmasking the global drug kingpins stalking South Africa, a chapter focuses on Ibrahim and D-Company.
It points out that while evidence shows D-Company is active in South Africa, authorities here do not say anything about it publicly.
In August 2016, India’s National Investigation Agency filed a charge sheet against Saeedmiya (also spelled Zahidmiya) Saikh, who was traced to Gqeberha and who is suspected of being involved in a double murder in his home country – and of working for D-Company.
The charge sheet also said that “three Indian persons presently residing in South Africa” were suspected associates of Saikh’s.
It alleged terror attacks to be carried out in India were being plotted in South Africa and a target was possibly Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
In 2019, it emerged that the Hawks were aware of the Saikh matter but said Indian authorities needed to work through official channels for this country to take action.
Mandrax kingpin in US court
Another individual indirectly connects Ibrahim to South Africa, Mandrax kingpin Vijaygiri “Vicky” Goswami.
Like Ibrahim, Goswami is from India.
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He was extradited from Kenya to the US in 2017 in a drugs case and is believed to have turned state witness.
In court in the US Goswami was asked about his connections to certain South African politicians, including “Mbeki” – presumably former president Thabo Mbeki.
He testified that he and associates had tried to dominate South Africa’s drug trade, even masterminding the murder here of someone identified only as “Pinky”.
During a court appearance in the US in 2019, Goswami was asked if he had agreed with India’s foreign intelligence service to have Ibrahim assassinated.
He was not made to reply but later said the Indian government asked him to help it fight terrorism.
Goswami, responding to questions about Ibrahim being his main drug rival, said this was incorrect.
Other claims link Goswami to the Guptas.
In April 2019, Vrye Weekblad reported that Goswami alleged, in sealed grand jury testimony in the US, that the Gupta family was involved in money laundering on behalf of Muhammad Asif Hafeez of Pakistan.
Hafeez is detained in the UK and faces possible extradition to the US, where authorities have alleged that he is a drug trafficker known by the name “Sultan”.
He is wanted in the US in a case Goswami is linked to.
The Hafeez case loops back to Ibrahim.
Media reports recently surfaced saying the US was targeting Hafeez to get to Ibrahim.
Daily Maverick unsuccessfully tried to get comment on allegations about Hafeez and South Africa from a lawyer who was representing him. DM168
Caryn Dolley has spent years tracing the footprints of crime/drug kingpins from across the world. In her latest book, Clash of the Cartels, Dolley provides unprecedented insight into how specific drug cartels and syndicates have operated via South Africa, becoming embroiled in deadly violence in the country and bolstering local criminal networks. Available now from the Daily Maverick Shop.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.