MUMBAI, Nov 2: A TADA court on Thursday convicted two former customs officers and an aide of absconding prime conspirator Tiger Memon for complicity in the 1993 serial bomb blasts that killed 257 people.
This was the first time that customs officers were found guilty under the TADA Act for aiding and abetting terrorist acts. Earlier, police officers were found guilty of similar charges, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said.
Judge P D Kode held Jayvant Gurav and S S Talawadekar, a former customs inspector and customs superintendent respectively, guilty of helping Dawood Ibrahim and other conspirators in facilitating the landing of arms and RDX at the Raigad coast despite knowing that the explosives were being smuggled in by terrorists.
With the conviction of the trio, the number of people found guilty in the 1993 blasts case has risen to 58.
Kode held that both officers, posted at Srivardhan in Raigad in January-February 1993, had taken bribes to help terrorists though they were duty-bound to prevent smuggling of contraband.
Gurav was found guilty of escorting two motor trucks carrying RDX and arms by using a customs jeep as a pilot vehicle to facilitate the smooth passage of the contraband from Raigad to Mumbai.
He was also found guilty of allowing accused Uttam Poddar -- Tiger Memon's aide -- to drive the customs jeep while he sat beside Poddar.
Another accused, Ayub Ibrahim Qureshi, also an aide of Memon, was found guilty of possessing a revolver, 52 rounds of ammunition and spare magazines in a notified area.
Kode convicted him under Sections 3 (3) and 5 of the TADA Act and under provisions of the Arms Act.
Gurav and Talavadekar were suspended from service after their arrest and later dismissed through a presidential ordinance, defence lawyer Subhash Kanse said.
The court accepted Gurav's confession and that of co-accused and approver Mohammed Usman Jan Khan in holding him guilty.
Kode said he had accepted the evidence of a top customs officer who said Gurav and Talavadekar had specific information about arms and RDX being smuggled in by terrorists. "Despite the information, they allowed the contraband to land in Raigad and reach Mumbai," he observed.
However, both customs officials were acquitted of the charge of participating in the conspiracy behind the blasts.
The court said there was evidence to suggest that Talawadekar was present at the Shekhadi coast when arms and RDX were landed, though he was not present during the second landing at Dighi coast.
The material in Talawadekar's confession has been corroborated by other evidence, Kode observed.
The court also found Ayub Qureshi guilty of possessing a pistol and ammunition that formed part of the consignment smuggled in for use in the blasts. He received these from co-accused Nasim Barmare and hid them inside the railway terminal compound at Naupada.
The trio faces punishment ranging from five years imprisonment to life terms.
All three accused were taken into custody and their bail bonds cancelled after the verdict was announced.
Gurav said he was suffering from high blood pressure and piles, following which the court allowed him to take medicines in jail.