Mumbai: Gangster Ejaz Lakdawala has told Mumbai Police that close aides of Chhota Rajan had planned to kill fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim in 1998, but the operation failed. Lakdawala, 50, who was on the run for two decades and was once a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim, made this revelation during interrogation by the Mumbai Crime Branch following his arrest last month in connection with cases of extortion and attempt to murder against him. He told the police that aides of Chhota Shakeel attacked him and gangster Chhota Rajan after their unsuccessful bid to kill Dawood Ibrahim. A source in the Crime Branch said that some close aides of Chhota Rajan along with Indian agencies planned to eliminate Dawood Ibrahim in Karachi in 1998. A team, comprising Vicky Malhotra, Farid Tanasha, Balu Dokre, Lakdawala, Vinod Matkar, Sanjay Ghate, and Baba Reddy, went to Karachi in 1998 to kill him, but the operation failed. Dawood Ibrahim was supposed to come to a 'dargah' (shrine) after his daughter Maria's death in Karachi. "Vicky Malhotra and others were waiting for him, but they had to abort the operation as Dawood Ibrahim came to the dargah with huge security after getting a tip-off about it by a Nepal parliamentarian," the source said. When the team later reached the flat where they were staying, Chhota Rajan asked them to leave immediately, saying the operation was leaked to Dawood Ibrahim. Lakdawala also told the police that the Pakistan Police probably raided their flat in the next two days and seized all the weapons they had got to eliminate Dawood Ibrahim. Later, Malhotra killed the Nepal parliamentarian while Chhota Rajan was attacked in 2000 by Munna Jhingada alias Sayyed Muddassar Hussain, a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim, who is presently in Pakistan. Lakdawala was attacked in Bangkok's busy Bobae Market area in 2002. He claimed that a 'tabeez' (amulet) saved him from the six bullets fired by Chhota Shakeel's aides on his chest, hands, and neck from point-blank range. Elaborating more on the amulet claim, Lakdawala told the police that his aide Salim Penwala, who was also arrested last month, was the one who had come to Bangkok to give the amulet to him, the source said. "However, Lakdawala was suspicious and did not want to go himself to meet Penwala. Instead, he sent his wife to collect the amulet and specifically asked her not to come home directly after meeting Penwala. But, she defied his order and came home directly," said the source. After two days, Lakdawala was attacked. "He told the police that the amulet kept in his pocket during the time of attack saved his life," the source said. Also, as he was shot near a hospital, he got medical help immediately and later fled to Canada. Chhota Shakeel subsequently informed newspapers and TV channels that Lakdawala was dead. "However, some people later confirmed to Shakeel that Lakdawala survived the attack, which the former could not believe," the source said. "For a few days, people believed Lakdawala was dead, the source said, adding that after his activities again started, the underworld came to know he was alive. But after the attack on him, Lakdawala became very religious," the source said. Lakdawala also told the police he is not sure whether Penwala was behind the attack on him. But, as he had no other men left to work for him, he had to work with Penwala and carry out his extortion racket. The police believed that Lakdawala was staying in Nepal for the past few years on a fake visa. "After he survived the attack on him, Lakdawala visited Pakistan to collect more information about Dawood Ibrahim," the source added. He was arrested by the Mumbai police's Anti-Extortion Cell (AEC) on January 9 as he wanted in several cases of extortion and attempt to murder in Maharashtra. After falling out with Dawood Ibrahim, Lakdawala started operating with Dawood's aide-turned-foe Chhota Rajan. In 2008, he parted ways with Rajan and started operating independently, a police official earlier said.
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