Bob Norman: Local Fugitive Ran To Hillary Clinton For Help
Former Broward sheriff's candidate Shahrukh "Shak" Dhanji has become an international man of mystery.
He's been popping back and forth between London and Mumbai, posting photos on his his blog of his recent encounters with supposed royalty, financiers, a British commodore, and a security director for Princess Di.
The 44-year-old Dhanji calls himself an "international trade entrepreneur," but here in Florida, he's something else all together: a fugitive from justice.
In February 2009, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a warrant for Dhanji's arrest on felony campaign and official misconduct charges.
?He originally said through his lawyer, 'Yeah I?ll surrender, I want to face these charges,'" said FDLE supervisory agent Victor Johnson. "Because at that time it was Shak for Sheriff right? He never showed up and when we went to check on him he was gone.?
Dhanji's wife and two daughters, who remained in Florida, claimed they didn't know where he went. But in July 2009, FDLE agents learned that he'd fled to his native Mumbai from an unlikely source: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
?When Ms. Clinton made her first visit over there as Secretary of State, he approached her Chief of Staff and claimed he was a victim of police persecution in the United States and had fled and wanted her help to get back and get the charges cleared," said Johnson. "They immediately contacted us."
Before fleeing, Dhanji was a well-known businessman in Broward, where he'd been raised after his birth in India. Dhanji was a friend of judges and politicians and an appointee -- by former Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist -- to the Florida Commission on Human Relations. In 2007, then-Chief Judge Dale Ross tapped Dhanji to conduct a study into insensitivity in the local judiciary and "integrity" in the system. He lived on an acre-spread in Coconut Creek across the street from a horse farm.
Behind the scenes though, Dhanji was living on borrowed cash, bouncing checks, and running what one of his former campaign aides calls a sham charity. He'd also been sued numerous times through the years by people claiming he owed them money.
Former Pembroke Park Vice Mayor Mayor Norm Price, a former police officer, worked for a time as Dhanji's campaign manager in the Sheriff's race. He said he soon learned that Dhanji was a "slick liar" and "the greatest BS artist that could be." Price and another former campaign worker, Nadezda Stefanovic, said Dhanji began paying them for their campaign work from his supposed non-profit charity that he called "The Human Relations Council of Florida."
Price knew that practice was illegal -- and he claimed that a raffle held by the non-profit was nothing more than a scam. On top of that, Dhanji bounced paychecks to Price and other campaign workers. Price claims that Dhanji owes him $11,000 to this day. Dhanji also highly leveraged his Coconut Creek home, which has recently been foreclosed upon with an $810,000 judgment issued against him.
Dhanji pushed forward with his Sheriff's campaign, hiring now-embattled political consultant Beverly Stracher to manage it. Stracher is now immersed in a scandal involving the dirty developers Bruce and Shawn Chait which has led to criminal charges against numerous politicians, including former Broward School Board Member Stephanie Kraft and former Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco.
When allegations of campaign violations surfaced, FDLE agents began an investigation. Dhanji told me in 2008 that he felt he was being "symbolically raped" by the agency.
"I sit before you today telling you square in the eyes that I have crossed no lines," he said. "This nonsense will stop as I ascend to the position that I seek."
Instead he lost in the primary to Scott Israel and a warrant was issued for his arrest in early 2009, alleging that Dhanji had falsified campaign documents and given thousands in cash to associates who then put the money into the campaign. "He had falsified documents, he had passed money from one hand to another as it were to finance his campaign which is illegal," said Johnson. ?He would pay his friends, his neighbors, his business associates, they would take that money and donate to his campaign.?
At least two of Dhanji's workers, Tania Martinez-Green and Elizabeth Darwish, testified that he dispersed tens of thousands of cash, which he had obtained with former business associate Michael Merolle, who also testified. But Dhanji has claims in his Internet writings that he was the victim of politically motivated insiders who knew he would stop the culture of corruption in Broward County.
Now he's also on the Internet boasting about his meetings with people like Angus Menzies, a British Commodore and the Clerk for the Honourable Company of Master Mariners in London. Also in England, he sat down with Ken Wharfe, who served as Security Director for Princess Di and wrote a book about it. Then there's the Countess Krystyna Maria Wilczek, partying at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, and a visit with financier Carlo Ferrari.
Interestingly, he's now claiming his name is "Shaan Shahrukh Dhanji" -- though former associates say they never heard him ever refer to himself as "Shaan," nor does it appear in public records. In his writings, he sometimes calls himself "Commissioner," a reference to his days on the Florida Human Relations Commission. His website -- which was first noticed by JAABlog (hat tip) -- indicates he's started a business called Alamout Ltd. Most of his writings are vague, detailing his chit-chat with notables in an apparent attempt to gain credibility overseas. Here's one example: "Further meetings were held with the Countess and certain members of the diplomatic corps stationed in London, in an ongoing quest by the Countess for a more tolerant world the respects the diversity and plurality that make up humankind. A positon strongly shared by Shaan Shahrukh Dhanji."
He gets a little more specific when he talks about a meeting with Ferrari:
"This was their third meeting in a few weeks, most of which was concentrated on the establishment of a Strategic Alliance between Alamout Ltd a company founded by S. Shahrukh Dhanji and Ferrari Financial and its several offshoot operations headed by Carlo Ferrari. Ferrari Financial will work with Alamout in its international product and service offerings. Likewise, Alamout will also provide soft resource support systems to compliment Ferrari Financials scale of operations, specifically as it relates to their precious metals activities. Mr. Ferrari assented to becoming an Advisor to Alamout Ltd. Reciprocally Carlo Ferrari appointed Shaan Dhanji to accept the position of Advisor on transactional and legal issues for Ferrari Financial. Both men formalized ties ...."
Price told me he's certain that anybody that does business with Dhanji overseas will get burned. I asked FDLE's Johnson about that and he said that Scotland Yard has been made aware of Dhanji's history. But for now Dhanji is free to roam the globe -- he won't be extradited because it's too expensive a process, said Johnson.
"We know where he is but getting him to come back is a different story completely," Johnson said. "We?ve alerted customs and whenever he comes back across the border of the United States he?ll be arrested and brought here."
But even Johnson doesn't believe that will ever happen -- he said he thinks Dhanji is gone for good after building a new life in his native country. His wife and daughters, however, are still believed to be residing in Florida.