Who is Abu Salem and Why He Was Once Feared in Mumbai

Once feared by Bollywood, Abu Salem will now serve 25 years in prison for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts

Updated
India
2 min read
A TADA Court today sentenced underworld don Abu Salem to a life in prison.
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A special TADA Court on Thursday sentenced Abu Salem to life imprisonment for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts which killed 257 people and injured around 700 others.

Abu Salem worked as a driver for the Dawood Ibrahim gang, transporting weapons and contraband. He was convicted for transporting weapons from Gujarat to Mumbai. He also confessed to delivering one of these many consignments to actor Sanjay Dutt’s house.

Abu Salem was well known for extorting money from Bollywood film producers and actors and usurping overseas distribution rights.

Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim used to hire poor, unemployed youth from Salem’s hometown, Azamgarh. He would bring them to Mumbai, get them to make drops, execute shoot outs and return to Azamgarh the next day.

On 20 September 2002, Interpol arrested Abu Salem after FBI officials helped track his location from the satellite phone that he’d been using. He and his partner, actor Monica Bedi, were picked up from Lisbon, Portugal.

Two years later, a Portugal court cleared his extradition to India to face trial. One key condition to this extradition agreement was that Abu Salem would not be handed the death penalty.

In fact, the court had dropped certain charges against Salem in 2013 after the CBI moved a plea stating that the charges went against the extradition treaty between India and Portugal.

Monica Bedi, who was also extradited to India, was convicted in and has served her time for passport forgery. There was no proof of her involvement in any of Salem’s businesses.

In 2002, the Times of India reported that the Dawood Ibrahim gang had played an important role in the arrest of Abu Salem and Monica Bedi in Portugal.

Salem broke away from Dawood in the mid-90s, irked by the importance the don was giving Chhota Shakeel. He started eating into Dawood’s extortion rackets in Mumbai, specially in Bollywood. The don suspected that Salem had joined hands with his arch rival, Chhota Rajan.
With the strength of his gang depleted in Karachi following a general crackdown on criminals by the Pervez Musharraf regime, Dawood found it more cost-effective to pass on information about Salem’s movements to Indian intelligence agencies than zero in on the renegade gangster through his own gang members.

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