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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Bollywood murder suspects cleared
Funeral of Gulshan Kumar
The killing sent shockwaves through Bollywood
All but one of 19 people accused of the murder of one of Bollywood's most successful businessmen, Gulshan Kumar, have been acquitted by a court in the India city of Bombay.

The judge said there was inadequate evidence to prove the charges.

I had no enmity with Gulshan Kumar and with this judgement truth has prevailed

Ramesh Taurani
Mr Kumar was shot dead by assailants outside a temple in suburban Bombay in August 1997.

He was the founder of the well-known Indian music company, T-Series, and later produced a number of successful Bollywood films.

'Hostile witness'

Bombay police had argued that Mr Kumar was the victim of a conspiracy between the owner of a rival music company, Ramesh Taurani, leading Bollywood music director, Nadeem Saifi and Dubai-based underworld gangster, Abu Salem.

The one person convicted in the case is Mohammad Rauf Merchant who had been charged with opening fire on Mr Kumar.

He will be sentenced at a later date.

Prosecuting lawyer Ujwal Nikam said the case turned on a witness who should have supported his case.

Nadeem Saifi
Nadeem Saifi fought off extradition

"We couldn't establish the charge of criminal conspiracy behind the murder of Gulshan Kumar after one of our witnesses turned hostile," he said, the Associated Press news agency reports.

"Once the main trunk is cut off, the branches will fall."

Judge ML Tahiliyani said the prosecution had failed to prove the charge of conspiracy levelled against the owner of the Tips Music Company, Ramesh Taurani and leading Bollywood music director, Nadeem Saifi.

The prosecution had alleged that the two men had conspired with an alleged Dubai-based underworld gangster, Abu Salem, to kill Mr Kumar.

It said Mr Taurani had given Mr Nadeem 2.5 million rupees. He then, it was alleged, passed the money on to Abu Salem for executing the murder.

'No enmity'

After the case Mr Taurani had praise for the court.

"I had no enmity with Gulshan Kumar and with this judgement truth has prevailed," he said, the AFP news agency reports.

"The trust in Indian judiciary is further boosted after this verdict, although it took five traumatic years for me to prove my innocence."

Defence lawyer Majid Memon was highly critical of the police after the case.

"The farce the police have been enacting has been exposed," he said.

"The court has ruled that there was no conspiracy in Dubai or Bombay as the police have been claiming for the past five years." Mr Saifi was in London with his family at the time of the murder.

In 2,000 he successfully fought off extradition proceedings against him.

See also:

10 Apr 02 | Film
Bollywood mafia links denied
15 Dec 00 | South Asia
Underworld scandal rocks Bollywood
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