'Sanjay Dutt did more than just keep a gun for self-protection in 1993'
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For this, assault rifles, pistols and hand grenades were brought from Pakistan and several young men were also taken to Pakistan and given arms training, police officers linked to the investigation recalled after this week's Supreme Court verdict in the 20-year-old case.
The arms landed at two places in Raigad district and one in Gujarat. The Gujarat consignment was hidden in the cavity of a vehicle and brought to Mumbai by road, driven by Abu Salem, who went on to become a prominent gangster.
Salem and his accomplices needed a quiet place to open the welded cavity and remove the arsenal. The office of Magnum Productions, owned by Hanif Kadawala and Sameer Hingora, on Linking Road in Bandra, was chosen. Dawood Ibrahim's brother Anees called Hingora and Kadawala and told them to allow Salem to use their compound.
The partners, however, were involved in a dispute with their landlord and did not want to risk catching his attention and suggested using actor Sanjay Dutt's house instead.
Dutt was contacted and he agreed. Hingora went with Salem after the latter feared he would not be allowed inside by the guards, and the vehicle was taken to Dutt's garage.
"The Mumbai Police had provided some guards for Sunil and Sanjay Dutt in light of the 1992-93 riots, and the garage was in direct line of sight from where they were stationed. Dutt asked them to move over to another gate, after which the cavity in the vehicle was opened and the arsenal extracted," said one officer.
"Dutt kept some of it, including three to four hand grenades and the rest was taken away by Salem. Dutt provided the tools for the task as well as duffel bags for loading the weapons," he added.
Dutt later called Anees and told him he was not comfortable keeping grenades at home as he felt they were unsafe. Mansoor Ahmed, who worked with Salem, went to Dutt's house and took the grenades away.
Police got to know of Dutt's involvement after they picked up Hingora and Kadawala. The actor was shooting in Mauritius at the time and the police decided to stay silent until he returned. However, one newspaper reported the development, causing Dutt to panic and call his friend Yusuf Nullwala and ask him to get rid of the weapons.
Nullwala took the guns to a foundry in Marine Lines and tried to destroy them. However, the barrel of the AK-56 rifle could not be destroyed and Nullwala took it to his house, from where it was recovered when police arrested him. Also, a 9 mm pistol could not be destroyed and Nullwala returned it to Dutt. It was recovered from his house when police arrested him.
Dutt later claimed he had retained only one gun for self protection, a claim investigating officers have scoffed at. "It would still be understandable, if not permissible, if Dutt had called up Anees and asked for a 9 mm for personal safety. However, we have evidence of the telephone calls between Dutt and Anees, where the actor asked Anees to take the grenades away, and we had submitted this in court as well," said another officer.
"While the world thinks there is only an Arms Act case against Dutt, what isn't widely known is that he had been charged for aiding and abetting the entire crime, with evidence to back the charge up," he said.
The TADA court, however, acquitted him of the terror charges and this was upheld by the Supreme Court too.