NEW DEHLI: A visibly shaken Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and two members of his troupe – Maroof, his manager and Indian event manager Chitresh Shrivastava — sped out of the dingy offices of the Indian Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) late Monday evening after nearly 30 hours in detention. None of the men were allowed to take their passports with them though.
The previous day Rahat was stopped from boarding an Emirates flight out of India bound for Karachi after an airport scanner revealed more than $124,000 both in his accompanied and unaccompanied luggage.
In his defence, Rahat said he was a school dropout and therefore did not understand Indian laws which require passengers flying out of the country to declare currency and travellers’ cheques in excess of $10,000.
The three men will have to appear for questioning within the next three days. Contrary to some media reports, Rahat was not arrested but merely detained and extended full cooperation with the authorities during that time.
Initially, Pakistan High Commission sought consular access to the three men but was told that access would be provided when questioning was over. Three high commission officials came to the zonal headquarters of the DRI where questioning of the singer was under way but left after about 30 minutes, sources said.
While Rahat and the other two were being interrogated, searches were conducted simultaneously on the premises of “Eyeline Telefilm and Events” in Mumbai, owned by Shrivastava. He is the elder brother of Bollywood singer Aadesh Shrivastava.
A top police official told The Express Tribune from New Delhi that if the information gathered by the DRI is correct and it was on the basis of intercepted telephone calls that Rahat was stopped as he was about to leave India, he “could be in a lot of trouble”. Information with law enforcement agencies suggests that Rahat, who is a regular visitor and performer in India, may have carried money abroad illegally at least twice earlier and for this reason, came under the scanner of the customs department. “Customs doesn’t really stop anyone unless they have prior information. In this case, it was telephone calls made on Rahat’s phone. Investigations are continuing,” the sources said.
They added that money laundering drug money, money belonging to terrorist groups and hawala (smuggling) are the three punishable categories of currency smuggling crimes. If Rahat was attempting to take money out from India in any of these categories, and if the government has evidence, he can be arrested in the next few days.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2011.
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