Caught on tape: How underworld don Dawood Ibrahim manages his business empire

Dawood Ibrahim might have cloistered himself at his safe house in Karachi’s upscale Clifton district, but he has now been caught on tape — for the first time ever — divulging his commercial operations overseas, an India Today TV investigation has found.

The crime lord is believed to have set up a vast business empire since he fled India in the 1980s.

India Today has now accessed clinching evidence suggesting how the internationally wanted terrorist and narcotics trafficker continued to expand his D-Company enterprise across continents all these years.

The don, whose net asset value is estimated at around $6.7 billion, is heard on tape disclosing his benami real-estate ventures in Dubai, his nerve centre in the Gulf.

Intercepts of Dawood’s calls to his business agent in the UAE, Yasir, point to a string of investments in someone else’s names.

Highly placed security officials confirmed to India Today TV the veracity of the audio tapes that show how he micro-manages his international business fronts while sitting inside his ISI-protected “White House” in Karachi.

“Perfect. Inshallah, I’ll inquire about it tomorrow. Any demands for the buildings?” Dawood is heard on the call intercepts from barely four years ago.

He’s referring to a swanky real-estate project, Al Khail Heights, one of Dubai’s dazzling neighbourhoods minutes from the city centre.

“Every other day, there’s someone coming in to enquire. So far, seven buildings have been sold, three of them recently,” replied Yasir, Dawood’s business associate in the UAE. “Six other buildings are getting [buyer] enquiries. Everyday someone or the other comes to meet regarding the buildings.”

Both are heard discussing potential returns from the underworld gangster’s possible investments in the Al Khail project.

“I told Irfan that I actually got a call today from the Dubai land department,” Yasir briefed his boss in Karachi.

“Okay. So, how’s the market? What’s the position?” Dawood inquired.

“It’s all fine as of now. The market is strong. Owners are holding on to their assets,” Yasir responded.

In the 2014 tapes, Dawood and his UAE agent spoke at length about setting up an escrow account, a banking facility for buyers and sellers to place their funds while they complete their real-estate deals.

“First of all, it’s the issue of transfers to an escrow account. I’ll inquire about the transfer issue whether it’s doable or not. I’ll discuss all of it,” the don said, as he took updates about the high-end Al Khail project, developed locally by a company called Texture.

“We also had a stand at the city space where we had put up large posters of Al Khail Heights. So, they called up today to enquire whether we have put Al Khail Heights up on sale. They said they had no information from Mirage [realtors]. So, we’ll show them the documents tomorrow,” Yasir informed Dawood.

“So you have taken Mirage documents with you?” probed the don.

“Documents that Texture took from Mirage. We took them from Texture,” his agent replied.

Dawood then spoke about advertising and media plan for the same housing project, especially about the fronts who would be identified publically as stakeholders.

“Who all will be named [in the media plan]?” he asked.

“I told Irfan about the media plan. He suggested we write ‘developed by Mirage, Al Khail Heights and Texture Holding’. No one else will be named. But giving that number is a must,” Yasir said.

“You mean the phone number?” asked the D-Company boss.

“Yes, the phone number. That has to be given.” the associate replied.

Yasir then requested the “Bhai” to reach out to his wealthy connections for the sale of luxury apartments.

“Bhai, you said you too had some links, some people interested in buying. You too can ask them,” he suggested.

“Definitely, I’d tell them. I’d first inquire about the escrow account transfer. I’ll talk about everything discussed,” Dawood replied.

India Today TV also accessed footage showing the underworld don’s operational hub in Dubai, ensconced inside an ocean-front high-rise at the Al Hamriya port.

Investigators confirmed to India Today TV that the sea-facing apartment served as Dawood’s communications centre.

“Sitting in Karachi, he remote controls his international criminal network from the same office at Dubai’s Al Hamriya Port,” a senior investigator said.

Dawood Ibrahim’s activities have long been under intelligence surveillance.

According to highly placed security officials, members of the Mumbai underworld now travel to Dubai to communicate with the don, fearing their calls might be tapped by Indian intelligence.

“They may be going out of the country, to Singapore, Dubai, in order to make calls, which could be tapped here,” said Pradeep Sharma of Thane’s anti-extortion cell.

The 2016 video in India Today TV’s possession showed Dawood’s Dubai agents and smugglers chatting in a well-equipped suite disguised as a non-descript cargo firm called Harbour Star General Trading LLC.

According to intelligence sources, the company belonged to Anees Ibrahim, the don’s brother.

Investigators acknowledged the port office seen in the footage is under probe.

“The office is at Al Hamariya Port and is under investigation. The company is called Harbour,” said encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma in Thane. “The office belongs to Anees Ibrahim and is run by one Zohaib. People communicated with Dawood from this office and it is under investigation. People associated are also under investigation and inquiry is going on.”

The men seen in that apartment have been identified as Zohaib Asad, son of Pakistan-trained terrorist Bashir Ahmed Khan wanted for his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial bombings.

Zohaib Asad, a graduate from the Bahria University’s Karachi campus, was employed by Dawood and his brother to reward his father for his acts of terror against India, according to intelligence sources.

Another man seen in the footage was identified as Vijay Subbanna Poojary, the suspected kingpin of sandalwood smuggling arrested last year by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI).

“Poojary is a criminal with a number of red sandalwood smuggling cases against him. He is the person seen in the video and he had been making multiple visits to Dubai” Sameer Wankhede, a DRI joint director in Mumbai, told India Today TV.