Tahir Merchant alias Tahir Takla, a convict in the 1993 Mumbai serial blast case, passed away early on Wednesday morning. According to Dr Bhushan Kumar Upadhyay, Additional Director General of Prisons Department (Maharashtra), Merchant, who was locked at the Yerawada Central Prison in Pune, complained of chest pain and breathing issues following which he was admitted to the Sassoon Hospital around 3 am. He died during treatment at 3:45 am.
Merchant, a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim, was extradited to India from Abu Dhabi and was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2010. According to police, Merchant had arranged the finance for the blasts and was also linked to other conspirators Tiger Memon.
Merchant’s role in the blast was huge but had managed to keep a low profile as he had no past criminal record said Rakesh Maria to The Hindu last year, who spearheaded the investigation into the case.
“He was the one who coordinated between the ISI and the D gang, arranged for everything from explosives to weapons to money, and took care of training youth to participate in the blasts. In fact, the young men who went to Pakistan through Dubai stayed in flats owned by Merchant, and he was also present for motivational talks given to them,” said Maria to The Hindu.
In September last year, a special Terrorist and Disruptive Activity (TADA) court granted death sentence to Tahir Merchant. The court had held that Merchant was amongst the main conspirators of the blast. Merchant was convicted of conspiring, facilitating and knowingly commissioning acts of terror.
The special court also awarded death sentence to Firoz Khan while it awarded life imprisonment to other accused Abu Salem and Karimullah Khan. Later, the Supreme Court had stayed the execution of death sentence of Tahir Merchant.
“The evidence proves the anguish, agitation and frustration expressed by Tahir due to the situation prevailing in
Bombay during the period of riots in January 1993,” the court had noted.
He worked with (absconding conspirator) Tiger Memon, participated in several conspiracy meetings in Dubai. Tahir made travel arrangements, financed the stay and travel of several co-accused and facilitated their training in Pakistan, the court noted.
“The role of Tahir in a conspiracy is prominent. He is one of the initiators of the conspiracy,” the court had said in its ruling in June 2017.
Another convict in the case, Mustafa Dossa had died of cardiac arrest at J J Hospital in Mumbai in June last year. The Mumbai blasts had left 257 people dead and 713 seriously injured. The blast also had destroyed properties worth Rs 27 crore.