They were one of the most dreaded mafia groups in Mumbai known for extorting money from celebrities and gunning down people. Today, the D-Company’s presence in the city has been curtailed and the gang has been reduced to “settling” land and property deals by cashing in on the fear still associated with the names of its founder and boss Dawood Ibrahim and his trusted aide Chhota Shakeel, both declared fugitives by the government.
Behind the shrinking and rescaling of D-Company’s operations in Mumbai lies a change of its fortunes after the death of one of its most powerful leaders, Dawood’s sister Haseena Parker, as well as the dogged efforts of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Mumbai police to wipe out their reach and threat in the city.
The recent arrest of brothers-in-law of Chhota Shakeel by the NIA first, and later by the Mumbai crime branch, has shed light on the modus operandi of the gang.
After Parker died in 2014, Salim Qureshi, alias Fruit, and Arif Shaikh, alias Arif Bhaijaan, took over the mafia network.
An officer from the Mumbai crime branch said that the Mumbai police has registered at least four FIRs against D-Company members in the past two months after the NIA arrested Qureshi and Shaikh on August 5 on charges of extortion and terror funding.
The cases have been registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). Qureshi and Shaikh would be behind bars for at least a few years due to stringent bail conditions specified in the two acts.
“Earlier people would be worried about complaining against Qureshi and Shaikh. However, after their arrest, four people have come forward to lodge FIRs and more complaints are likely,” the officer said, adding that while one complaint was registered with the Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai police, the other three were registered at Versova, Dadar and Dongri police stations.
All these cases were eventually taken up by the anti-extortion cell of Mumbai police for further investigation. The officer said that while the police knew that the D-Company had been extorting money from people caught in land and property disputes over the past few years, these cases provide a closer look at how they operate.
The first FIR against Qureshi was registered on August 10 at the Dadar police station. The complainant, Mohammad Tambe, said that he had rented out a building, which he jointly owned with his nephews, at Masjid Bunder. In June 2021, after a dispute broke out between Tambe and his nephews, some of the tenants of the building showed him a legal notice they had received saying 50% of the ownership of the building had been sold to Qureshi and henceforth they would have to pay the rent to him.
When Tambe visited the registration office at Dadar, he found out that the property was sold for Rs 21 lakh by using forged documents like fake tenant list, rent receipts, duplicate gumasta license etc. It took Tambe more than a year to gather the courage to lodge a complaint against Qureshi, which led to an FIR being registered against nine people including Qureshi and Tambe’s nephews.
On September 24, an FIR was registered by the Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai police against Qureshi, his wife Shazia and nine others for allegedly usurping a property worth Rs 25 crores in south Mumbai.
The complainant, a South Africa-based businessman Ahmad Lambath, alleged that his relatives had sold his building in Umerkhadi to Qureshi’s wife in 2016 by forging the signature of his father who died in 2006. In this case too, while the incident took place in 2016, the complainant came forward a month after Qureshi had been arrested.
On September 26, another FIR was registered by Versova police against Qureshi and his aide Riyaz Bhati for allegedly threatening and demanding Rs 62 lakh from a businessman after he lost to Qureshi during a game of cards. When he couldn’t pay, Qureshi asked the businessman to hand over his car – a Range Rover worth Rs 30 lakhs. Seven people have been arrested in the case including Qureshi and Bhati.
The latest FIR was registered on October 12 at the Dongri police station against Qureshi, Shaikh and a builder, Jayesh Shah, based on a complaint lodged by a property dealer Sohail Arbiwala. Arbiwala alleged that in 2012 he had bought a five-acre land at Mira Road in Thane from its owner Meenabai Raut, Bahmini Patil and others for Rs 4 crores. He later discovered that Shah had also transacted with the owners for the same land parcel. When Arbiwala approached Shah to clarify if he had purchased the plot, Shah told him to talk to “hajisaab”, or Chhota Shakeel.
In 2018, Arbiwala was asked to pay Rs 5 crores and hand over a part of the land measuring 50,000 sq ft to Arif Shaikh to settle the matter. When he did not respond to the offer, he started receiving death threats. Eventually, Arbiwala decided to approach the Dongri police. An FIR was registered and Shaikh and Shah were arrested.
An officer said: “While we knew about the crime in several of these cases, the complainant was not willing to come forward. After the arrest of Shaikh and Qureshi, we have been counselling people to lodge a formal complaint, which leads to the registration of an FIR.”
“The D-Company capitalised on the fear its name would trigger to ensure that people yielded to its demands and did not come forward to complain. After the NIA case, however, the tide has turned,” he added
A senior police officer said that the police are keeping a watch on at least 20 people who assist Chhota Shakeel in carrying out such activities in and around Mumbai.
“There are a few more cases where we suspect the involvement of D-Company and we are trying to convince people to come forward and lodge a complaint. Our aim is to completely wipe out D-Company’s network in the city,” he added.