NEW DELHI — Bollywood is breathing easier following news of the arrest of alleged Indian gangster Abu Salem in Portugal last week.
Arrest came in true film style after a police chase of Salem and his companion Monica Bedi through the streets of Lisbon with several cars being hit.
Salem, wanted in connection with 60 murders, allegedly runs a blackmail and extortion ring pinpointing India’s movie community.
The gangster, along with Pakistan-based Dawood Ibrahim and his top aide Chhota Shakeel, are suspected of being the three kingpins of Bombay’s underworld, with operations ranging from extortion and kidnapping to murder, smuggling and drug trafficking.
Police say that most of the top Bollywood personalities are under police protection following threats from Salem and his henchmen.
Suspected in slaying
Salem is alleged to have ordered the 1997 killing of film producer and music baron Gulshan Kumar.
The assassination sent shivers of fear through Bollywood, with leading figures believing they could be next on the hit list.
Their fears proved correct when an unsuccessful attempt was made on the life of producer-director Rajiv Rai.
Salem allegedly continued his blackmail and extortion threats but his power base was hit in the late 1990s when Bollywood films, that had until then been virtually assured of success, began to flop.In a bid to maintain his grip, police claim he ordered the murder of producer Ajeet Deewani and also made an unsuccessful attempt on actor-turned-director Rakesh Roshan. He is also accused of threatening actress Manisha Koirala.
Early this year police gunned down four of Salem’s men allegedly on their way to kill the pair behind the Oscar-nominee “Lagaan” (Tax) — producer-star Aamir Khan and director Ashutosh Gowarikar.
Salem was arrested by Interpol on Wednesday, but news of the breakthrough was only announced over the weekend.
Negotiations are under way to deport Salem from Portugal to India. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty.