Raised in Dongri, a poor Muslim-dominated part of Central Bombay which would go on to became his stronghold as ‘The Don’.
There is no denying that Dawood Ibrahim’s story is the stuff movies are made of – The son of a police constable who goes from a hooligan in Dongri to a smuggler to a murderer to an organiser of a trans-continental crime syndicate featured on India’s and Interpol’s wanted list, and a fugitive residing at an undisclosed location in Pakistan with more than a dozen aliases and several fake passports!
However, as the media continues to speculate, here’s everything you need to know about the fascinating, gritty life of crime led by Dawood Ibrahim.
(Editor's Note: This explainer was originally published in 2017.)
On 26 December 1955, in a village in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar aka one of India’s Most Wanted Criminals, was born to a modest Konkani Muslim family with eight brothers and four sisters. His father, Ibrahim Kaskar, was a head constable in the Mumbai Police, while his mother, Amina, was a homemaker.
He attended Ahmed Sailor High School, but dropped out when his father could not afford it any longer. He got into hooliganism and formed his own gang of Dongri boys who participated in small-time smuggling and violence. This continued until he came in contact with the gang of the then-reigning King of the Underworld, Haji Mastan, after the latter bashed up two of Dawood’s group. He was only 19 years old then.
From there, there was no turning back. In the 1970s, along with his brother, Shabir Ibrahim Kaskar, he formed what the media calls the ‘D-Company’ or Dawood Company. Today, the crime syndicate dabbles in international drug trafficking, counterfeiting, and weapons smuggling across three continents and more than 25 countries.
Dawood, aka Sheikh Dawood Hassan, is married to Mehjabeen Shaikh alias Zubeena Zareen. Together, they have three children but very little is known about their marriage. In 2006, Dawood’s daughter, Mahrukh Ibrahim, married Junaid Miandad, son of Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad. In 2011, his daughter Mehreen married Ayub, a Pakistani-American. The same year, Dawood’s son Moin married Saniya, daughter of a London-based business tycoon and officially became a maulana in 2017. His third daughter Maria died of malaria in Pakistan in 2010.
Several of his family members and D-Company associates like Chota Shakeel (Dawood’s key aide) and his relatives still live in Mumbai while Dawood is allegedly based in Pakistan. His sister, Haseena Parker, also known as the ‘Queen of Mumbai’, died of a cardiac arrest in 2014.
In 2011, Dawood stood at No 3 in Forbes’ World’s Top 10 Most Dreaded Criminals list.
On 4 December 1974, Dawood committed his first major crime.
By this time, he had replaced one Baashu Dada as the King of Dongri and had around him a group of equally truant boys, willing to go to any lengths in their loyalty to him. Some of them were Dawood’s relatives from Ratnagiri, while others were his friends and strongmen, each with their own skill-sets. The gang had already started creating trouble with the Pathans and Haji Mastan’s gang and was also simultaneously emerging as a small-time smuggling ring.
To seek revenge, Dawood decided to act on a tip-off they received that an informal money courier would be carrying Rs 4,75,000 belonging to Haji Mastan from Masjid Bunder to his house in Malabar Hill. With eight boys and choppers, country-made revolvers and iron rods, he decided to accost the taxi in which the money was being transported. Two of his key aides in this assignment were Sher Khan (said to have a chilling voice) and Sayed Sultan (a towering bodybuilder who earned the titles of Mr Bombay, Mr Maharashtra and Mr India).
The next day, Dawood realised that the money did not belong to Haji Mastan but to the Metropolitan Bank. It was not just a robbery, it was the biggest bank robbery Bombay had seen in a decade.
Meanwhile, his father, Ibrahim Kaskar, a police constable with the Crime Branch, was assigned to a team tracking down the gang who had robbed an astronomical amount of money from the Metropolitan Bank. Imagine his shock when he discovered that his second son, Dawood, was the man behind it all! He dragged his son back home, beat him black and blue with a belt, dragged him to the police station and made him confess.
Even though the police station registered a robbery complaint against Dawood and his group of eight, top officials in the Crime Branch offered him a chance to help them bring down the Pathan gang in Bombay, which he was more than happy to do.
By this time, ‘D-Company’ or Dawood’s gang, was knee-deep in smuggling and gang violence.
The case against Dawood in the Metropolitan robbery dragged on for the next 15 years. In 1989, a trial court acquitted all members of the gang except Sher Singh, Sayed Sultan and Dawood. The police filed an appeal in the High Court and then the Supreme Court which issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Dawood in 1992.
To this day, the case is pending. But after he was charged with murder of Samad Khan, Dawood fled India in 1986 and remains on the run till this date.
By the time Dawood was in his late teens, he had already created a circle of relatives, friends and aides around him. Together they started with small-time smuggling and soon grew into a mega crime network, colloquially called D-Company. The company had multiple interests when it started off: smuggling, narcotics, clearing land for construction, evicting tenants from old buildings, mediating business disputes and the ‘hawala’ trade (laundering money and remittances from illegal businesses).
When he shifted base to Dubai (UAE) in 1986, he established multiple chains of D-Company’s many businesses, reportedly with the help of influential local sheikhs, even members of the royal families of the Gulf emirates. The significant stakes he had in the ship-breaking industry in India (especially in Gujarat) gave him a way to smuggle arms, contraband, counterfeit notes and narcotics into the country.
In 1993, when he set up his base in Pakistan, D-Company deepened its links with terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and ISI, spreading its illegal empire even further. Today, Dawood sits at the top of the largest organised crime syndicate in South East Asia, primarily in Dubai, Pakistan and India. Some other countries where D-Company has a presence are the UK, Germany, Turkey, France, Spain, Morocco, Cyprus, UAE, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
Several former West Indian and Indian cricketers (including Kapil Dev) later confirmed that Dawood had easy access to dressing rooms of players in the 1980s! To this day, match-fixing remains one of D-Company’s main businesses and gathers approximately $1.8 billion is annual revenue. In fact, D-Company was alleged to have been a part of the IPL Spot Fixing Scam in 2013. In 2011, Indian intelligence also linked D-Company with the 2G Spectrum scam through a company formerly known as Swan Telecom.
Prominent members of D-Company include Chhota Shakeel, Tiger Memon (fugitive wanted in the 1993 blasts case), Yakub Memon (convicted and executed for 1993 blasts) and Abu Salem (sentenced to life imprisonment for 1993 blasts). The company has made several enemies including the entirety of Mumbai Police and other dons such as Chhota Rajan and Arun Gawli.
D-Company was thriving by the 80s and consisted of Hindus and Muslims both. But because of growing Hindu-Muslim tensions in the country, the group became radicalised and developed ties with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and terrorists groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and the Al Qaeda.
D-Company’s first foray into terrorism was their response to the Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992 and the the subsequent deadly communal riots that killed hundreds of Muslims. Outraged on behalf of Muslims and pressurised by Pakistan’s ISI to smuggle bombs and arms into India in exchange for access to Pakistan’s water for their smuggling business, D-Company financed and launched a series of bomb attacks on 12 March 1993 across Mumbai, killing 257 people and injuring around 700 more.
After this, Dawood could never return to India or the UAE again (UAE has an extradition treaty with India) so he moved his base to Karachi, Pakistan. He was now a Most Wanted criminal. Several Hindu members of D-Company split up at this point, with key aide Chhota Rajan leaving and creating his own gang of Hindu mafia members.
In Pakistan, D-Company reportedly deepened its links with ISI and LeT (designated as a terrorist organisation by the US), allegedly started funding LeT’s activities, recruiting people for their training camps, and providing them with their smuggling routes and contacts.
According to some Indian and Russian intelligence reports, D-Company even provided a boat and arms to the ten terrorists who entered Mumbai via sea and attacked South Mumbai on 26 November 2008, killing 173 people.
The US government further claims that D-Company also has ties with Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, which was responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Centre. In 2003, they declared Dawood Ibrahim as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and took up the matter with the UN to seize all his properties across various countries. As a result, the UN Security Council’s IS and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee added Dawood to the list of individuals associated with Al Qaeda.
The company’s deep pockets, its streak of terrorist attacks and ties with several terror outfits poses a credible international threat because of Dawood’s expertise and experience in smuggling terrorists across borders, narcotics and arms trafficking, extortion and money laundering through the hawala system.
A red corner notice has been issued by Interpol, and his assets are being tracked down and frozen by several countries, the UK and the UAE being the latest additions to the list.
According to Forbes, Dawood Ibrahim is one of the richest and deadliest gangsters of all time. In 2015, his net assets were worth $ 6.7 billion. Only once before has a gangster surpassed this value in Forbes magazine: Pablo Escobar in 1989 was worth $9 billion.
Dawood’s business interests through D-Company are spread over 15 countries across three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. He is the owner of a vast amount of benami properties, that is land brought under a different name, in Mumbai as well as in Spain, Morocco, Pakistan and Australia.
Recent reports of Dawood Ibrahim being seriously ill have led to speculation of his brother Anees inheriting the trans-continental business of D-Company. Other reports suggest his assets are likely to be split evenly between Dawood’s family and aides.
Bollywood has forever been intrigued with the Mario Puzo-esque story of Dawood Ibrahim. Company, D, Shootout at Lokhandwala, Shootout at Wadala, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, D-Day are only some of the innumerable movies made about Dawood and D-Company.
But the fascination works both ways.
It has been alleged that D-Company has produced and continues to produce several films through other people such as the Salman Khan-starrer Chori Chori Chupke Chupke. Even today, his key aide Chhota Shakeel, who handles the business in Mumbai, is said to be financing movies. Extortion of Bollywood directors is said to be yet another favourite revenue-generating hustle of D-Company. Mukesh Bhatt, Boney Kapoor, Rakesh Roshan have all admitted to receiving calls for sharing of profits, with threats of dire consequences in the event of non-compliance.
By the 1990s, Dawood’s clout had increased so much that when – true to his king-sized lifestyle – he would throw lavish parties, Bollywood actors had to be present, usually more out of coercion than choice. It is said that he took a special liking to yesteryear heroine Mandakini (of Ram Teri Ganga Maili fame) who was seen with him at several occasions. Rumours of an affair took root in 1994, including that she even went to Dubai with Dawood to live, and the beautiful actress’ career came to an end abruptly and she disappeared from screen entirely.
Dawood also was allegedly involved with beauty pageant contestant Anita Ayub. When director Javed Siddique refused to case her in a movie, he was reportedly shot dead on Dawood’s orders in 1995.
In 1997, D-Company was responsible for the murder of T Series founder and music producer Gulshan Kumar. Ten days before he was shot dead at point-blank range in Versova, Mumbai, Abu Salem – Dawood’s man in Dubai – called and threatened Kumar to cough up Rs 10 crore as an extortion price. Even though the same year, D-Company had tried to murder another producer Rajiv Rai in July 1997 and had threatened director and producer Subash Ghai, Gulshan Kumar did not agree to the terms and refused to pay. Less than 24 hours later, he was killed and his body was left bullet-ridden in a toilet in a nearby chawl.
Superstar Shah Rukh Khan has openly admitted to speaking to Chhota Shakeel under duress, to listen to a story and decide whether to make a film about it. He allegedly also received threat calls from Abu Salem, a key D-Company member accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case. In fact, actor Sanjay Dutt was arrested in connection with this terrorism case as it was alleged that Dawood and Salem visited his house and stored guns there for the ensuing communal riots.
Currently, the don resides in Pakistan. The United Nations has confirmed six of the nine addresses shared by the Indian intelligence about his whereabouts. His primary residence is a huge bungalow at D-13, Block 4, Clifton, Karachi. Pakistan continues to deny that he resides in the country, ignoring dossier after dossier sent by India naming Dawood as the mastermind behind the 1993 serial bomb blasts with proof of his houses in Pakistan.
According to informed sources who have spoken to the media, Pakistan is harbouring Dawood because he is a vital intelligence source for them. By getting information through his men in India and smuggling in counterfeit currency and contraband through them, he helps keep Pakistan one-step ahead.
Despite the government being on the hunt for him for more than a decade now, India continues to be one of this main areas of business still, specifically, printing and pumping fake Indian currency notes (FICN). With demonetisation, the hawala and betting industries were severely affected, impacting Dawood’s business too. It also led to the arrest of his brother, Iqbal Kaskar, who was caught forcing bewildered builders to pay in new notes for their real estate projects to commence.
His lieutenant, Chhota Shakeel, is understood to be running D-Company in India along with another aide, Rehmat in South Africa. A big D-Company business connecting the two is the illegal trade of diamonds, mined from South Africa and smuggled into India for cutting and polishing.
It is understood that over the last decade, however, Dawood has lost most of his key aides which has adversely impacted the don, mentally and physically. First, his financier Shared Shetty was murdered by Dawood’s long-time rival Chhota Rajan. Dawood then lost one of his closest aides, Pakistani Don Shoaib Khan in 2005. In November 2006, ten members of his gang were arrested by the Mumbai Crime Branch after being extradited from UAE.
There is a reward of $25 million riding on Dawood’s head. From the UK, to India to UAE to Interpol, the police are looking for him everywhere. But his life is one of deliberate lies, distractions, half-truths, aliases and staying in the shadows.
In 2016, it was reported Dawood had contracted gangrene and would need to have a limb amputated, but that was dismissed by Chhota Shakeel. Earlier in 2017, it was said the Don was on his deathbed while animosity between his brother Anees Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel grew over who would inherit Dawood’s legacy.
But in November 2017, India Today gained access to audio recordings of phone calls made by a hale and hearty Dawood conducting his business with Indian bookies and other contacts about ongoing criminal cases against his aides.
The latest update, however, came in around mid-December when intelligence agencies claimed that the trailblazing criminal duo, Chhota Shakeel and Dawood, had split over growing tensions regarding Anees’ involvement after three decades. Before speculation could arise over the future of D-Company, on 21 December 2017, Hindustan Times came upon an audio clip claiming Chhota Shakeel had either died or had been murdered in January 2017. (The same guy who is allegedly still running the business from Mumbai!)
HT’s sources claim that a distraught Dawood has been slipping in and out of depression ever since and is contemplating coming back to India, and most of Shakeel’s aides such as Mohammed Rashid, Iqbal Salim and Yusuf Raja – all Pakistani nationals – have broken from D-company.
Whether that is the truth or yet another contradictory fact put out there to make it harder to find Dawood Ibrahim and his gang, we just don’t know.