‘Terrorist and drug dealer’ dies in east London exile

Iqbal Memon fled India after the 1993 Mumbai bombings – and never looked back. Paul Peachey tells his story

A businessman named as one of the world's biggest drug dealers with alleged links to a notorious criminal blamed for a terrorist attack that killed hundreds has died in Britain after two decades of defying attempts to put him on trial in India.

Iqbal Memon, who died this week from a suspected heart attack, was the reputed London-based fixer for Dawood Ibrahim, one of the world’s most-wanted criminals-turned-terrorists and the suspected mastermind behind serial bombings in 1993 on the Mumbai stock exchange and other strategic targets.

Mr Memon was named earlier this year in the media as having links to those accused in the Indian cricket match-fixing scandal that saw 29 people arrested, and led to a continuing corruption inquiry. Mr Memon was also said to be the manager of Dawood’s drug syndicates in European countries.

In his last known public comments, to The Independent last month, Mr Memon denied he had any links with Dawood and said the description of him as a “kingpin” of a betting syndicate was “preposterous”. However, he has not returned to India for years because of outstanding warrants against him from investigators linked to his alleged drug dealing.

"Mirchi's death is a big blow to the drugs syndicate... It's unfortunate he died before being deported," said Himanshu Roy a senior Mumbai police chief told the Times of India.

In the statement from his solicitor three weeks ago, Mr Memon said that he was “a successful businessman who is continuously harassed by the false allegations against him by the media. So far all allegations against him have been without merit”.

Mr Memon, who declined to be interviewed, said that he was recovering from a heart bypass operation and “the stress of any false reporting could be detrimental to his recovery” and threatened libel action if “false allegations” were published against him.

The Indian government tried to extradite Mr Memon in 1995 for drug dealing and an alleged murder, but the attempt failed and the authorities were forced to pay legal costs, he said in the statement. Despite the failure of the extradition attempt, the US state department listed him in 2004 as one of 10 foreign drug “kingpins”, denying him access to the US financial system and trade.

Dawood Ibrahim Dawood Ibrahim

 

Mr Memon lived in a six-bedroomed detached house in Hornchurch. When The Independent visited last month there were three Lexus cars in the driveway and high gates painted black and gold.

His solicitor, Afsheen Chowdhry, confirmed that Mr Memon – also known as “Mirchi” (chilli-hot) after the family spice business – had died but declined to give further details.

Dawood Ibrahim remains a looming presence over Indian society 20 years after the multiple bomb blasts that forced his and Mr Memon’s departure from the country. Mr Memon, 63, claimed in an interview eight years ago that he was told he would be framed unless he paid huge bribes to police investigating the 1993 blasts, and fled to Britain via Dubai.

The terrorist attacks followed anti-Muslim riots in the early 1990s in the Hindu-majority nation and Mr Memon has claimed he has been targeted by the authorities for being a successful Muslim businessman.

The Air India Building in Mumbai following the 1993 bombings The Air India Building in Mumbai following the 1993 bombings

 

He had been allowed to remain in Britain following his successful battle against extradition, and the Indian authorities had not pursued their attempts to have him returned.

Mr Memon was arrested in 2011 over alleged threats to kill an Indian business rival who also lived in Hornchurch but the charges against him were dropped after investigators concluded there was no realistic prospect of a prosecution. However, he remains known as Dawood’s right-hand man in his native India, who learned his illicit trade operating from Mumbai docks.

Despite the restrictions on his travel to India, Mr Memon had property interests in India which had been the subject of confiscation attempts by the authorities. "The British police, the Indian police, the American police all have my address because I have written to them and told them. If I am a kingpin and they want to arrest me, they know exactly where to find me," Mr Memon said in the 2005 interview.

Dawood – the son of a policeman and a leader of the D-Company – became the biggest figure in the Mumbai underworld through terror and extortion before expanding his rackets globally. He is now believed to be living in Pakistan, and his presence there – denied by Islamabad – has contributed to the sour relations between the nuclear neighbours. His financial muscle is so great that he reputedly propped up the Pakistani central bank during a period of economic crisis.

Dawood’s gang is said to have been a key player in extortion, murder, and drug-smuggling routes, and has a major stock in the Bollywood film industry.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones