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Monday, 8 January, 2001, 17:50 GMT
Top Bollywood producer arrested
Bharat Shah
Bharat Shah: Diamond merchant and film producer
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

Indian police have arrested leading Bollywood producer Bharat Shah on suspicion of links with the criminal underworld.

Mr Shah was produced at a special court in Bombay and remanded to police custody until 19 January.

According to state Home Minister Chagan Bhujbal, Bharat Shah - a diamond trader turned film producer and financier - was arrested on the basis of "concrete evidence" which linked him with an underworld don, Chhota Shakeel.

He said the police possessed two audio tapes recording conversations between the two.

'Taped evidence'

In the tape, Mr Shah and Shakeel allegedly discussed an extortion racket involving a businessman.

Salman Khan
Top actor Salman Khan was questioned
The tapes are also said to implicate Mr Shah in illegal foreign currency transactions.

There was "ample evidence to prove that Shah was one of the important links used by the underworld to pressurise film personalities to act in films, ensure shooting dates and reduce their fees," Mr Bhujbal said.

The home minister also said that after his arrest, Mr Shah had admitted the voice on the tapes was his.

Bharat Shah was interrogated twice last month by the Bombay police following the arrest of Bollywood film producer, Nazeem Rizvi.

Mr Rizvi has been charged by the police for threatening film personalities and using slush funds to finance his latest movie, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (Hush Hush).

The film was financed by Bharat Shah on a 1.2 bn rupees ($25,718m) budget.

During his questioning he denied any underworld involvement and said that every rupee invested in the film was accounted for.

The morale of the industry is at an all time low

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt
The movie's lead actor, Salman Khan, was among those who were questioned by the police in this connection.

Bharat Shah's arrest has shocked the Indian film industry.

"The morale of the industry is at an all time low. Truth should be established at the earliest and there should be no media trial," well known filmmaker, Mahesh Bhatt told the BBC.

With a majority of movies failing to recover their investments at the box office, film making is regarded as a highly risky business in India and institutional financing is difficult to come by.

The industry's mafia links have long been known but Nazeem Rizvi's was the first ever arrest made by the police.

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See also:

15 Dec 00 | South Asia
Underworld scandal rocks Bollywood
06 Oct 00 | South Asia
Indian 'mafia boss' arrested
26 Oct 00 | Entertainment
International Bollywood blitz
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