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Spotlight on property dealer: Headley's Dubai 'link'

Dubai: A real estate salesman in Dubai finds himself unwittingly in the spotlight after his name and etisalat mobile number were found listed in the diary of David Coleman Headley — a key terror suspect who allegedly plotted the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and planned to strike Europe as well.

Headley appeared before a Chicago court in a counter-terrorism trial this week.

Pages from his handwritten diary, produced by US prosecutors as evidence, mention Dubai-based Imran Lodhi alongside other names, some of which allegedly belong to Pakistani handlers of the Mumbai attacks.

It's believed that Lodhi was managing two shops for Headley in Dubai and also assisting him in acquiring a third one.

An XPRESS investigation has discovered that Lodhi, 41, is a Pakistani national who works with Search Confident Real Estate company in Deira.

His colleagues confirmed that Lodhi has been working at the company for the past five to six years, but said they didn't know if he had any associations with Headley. "When you're a real estate agent, a lot of people have your number. I don't know whether or not Lodhi was managing any properties for Headley, but I can tell you that he's got a clean record. I know him for many years. He's a good man," said his colleague Nadeem.

Lodhi himself was not available for comment.

His etisalat cell phone number remained switched off.

When XPRESS managed to contact Lodhi briefly on his du number on Wednesday afternoon, he said he was busy in a meeting and requested us to call back after one hour. All subsequent calls remain unanswered.

A visit to Lodhi's office Search Real Estate Company in Deira drew a blank as nobody there knew his whereabouts. "He came in the morning and then left for field visits," said the receptionist at his office.

The company's managing director could not be contacted as he's out of the country.

Headley, who had pleaded guilty to doing some groundwork for the Mumbai attacks that killed over 160 is currently testifying against co-accused Tahawwur Rana to avoid the death penalty, making him a key counter-terrorism witness for the US government.

Rana, a Chicago-based businessman who has also been accused of providing cover for Headley, has pleaded innocent, with his lawyers claiming that he has been framed.

As it emerged during the trial, Headley, who feared arrest in India in 2009, had written an e-mail giving details about his assets in Dubai to Rana when they were still friends. The e-mail said: "The larger one [shop] has two more years on the lease. The rent is fixed at Dh23,780 quarterly. It was paid in February so you can figure out when it is due next. The smaller one has one year on its lease. The rent is [Dh]12,200 quarterly, paid in January, so figure out the rest. The guy managing these properties is Imran Lodhi and his number is 011-971-50-214-XXXX. He has two months rent with him for EACH shop now, that is of Oct, Nov 08 and of Jan, Feb 09."

The e-mail is also said to have quoted Headley as saying that he let Lodhi keep the amount, since he owed Dh166,000 on a third shop he was planning to buy.

"The balance of this payment, after deducting the four months rent will be paid after I sell this plot in Pakistan. After that, I will have to pay the balance on the third shop by 2011. The amount is [Dh]166000 multiplied by six. All the three shops are in Shazi's name." The identity of "Shazi" remains unclear.

A resume of Lodhi obtained by XPRESS said he worked for Julian Real Estate in Lahore from 2001 to 2005 before he joined Search Confident in Dubai. According to the resume, he is an arts graduate with a Masters in Business Administration.

It said he also worked with Pepsi Punjab Beverages Co Pvt Ltd in Pakistan, between 1991 and 2000.

Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina, Deputy Dubai Police Chief said, "We have not been approached by anyone about this case. However, if we were to be contacted for assistance in the matter, it would be through the legal ministries in the region."

The Chicago Trials

David Coleman Headley, formerly known as Daood Saeed Gilani, is a Pakistani-American terror operative and currently a key witness for the US government in a counter terrorism trial in Chicago in connection with the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Testifying before the court in the trial of a co-accused Chicago businessman and long-time friend Tahawwur Rana for the second day on Tuesday, he alleged close co-operation between a Pakistani militant group and the intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), saying he was in touch with them even a month before the attacks.

Headley, 51, alleged he was recruited by the ISI to help plot the Mumbai attacks. He claimed he met with handlers from militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba and the ISI in Pakistan in October 2008 — one month before the attacks in Mumbai, which killed over 160 people.

He said an earlier attempt to attack Mumbai in September 2008, had failed as "the boat carrying Pakistani assailants hit the rocks". Headley had earlier pleaded guilty to doing preparatory work for the Mumbai attacks but is currently testifying against Rana to escape death penalty.

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