Brother suspicious of lottery winner’s death
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org January 23, 2013 3:46AM
Updated: February 24, 2013 6:26AM
Imtiaz Khan says he had a premonition the day his younger brother died.
He dozed off and dreamed of Urooj Khan’s wife, Shabana Ansari, walking into a room. Hovering behind her was his brother’s father-in-law, in an ominous two-person parade.
“I don’t know why, but I got up and yelled, ‘Ghazi’ [Urooj Khan’s nickname]. I said, ‘Ghazi, what happened?’ ” Imtiaz Khan said in Urdu in a recent, exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.
Twenty minutes later, the U.S. postal worker got the bad news.
His brother, Urooj Khan, was “no more.”
Imtiaz Khan told the Sun-Times of his suspicions over his brother’s untimely death after winning a $1 million lottery jackpot.
“Shabana said Urooj had no enemies. That’s because they were in the house. She was his enemy No. 1,” Imtiaz Khan, 56, said.
When told Tuesday afternoon of the allegations made by her late husband’s brother, Shabana Ansari said, “I really don’t care what he’s saying. … No comment.”
Shabana Ansari prepared the last Indian-style meatball meal her husband ate. Her father, Fareedum Ansari, could not be reached for comment. Both their lawyers dismissed Imtiaz Khan’s allegations and said their clients have been “devastated” since Urooj Khan’s death in July.
Imtiaz Khan is involved in litigation with Shabana Ansari over her late husband’s estate.
No one has been named a suspect in the case, and it will be weeks before results from a court-ordered exhumation of Urooj Khan’s remains, which happened Friday, will come back to possibly help Cook County prosecutors if there are charges.
The Cook County medical examiner initially ruled that Urooj Khan died from hardening of arteries. But when a relative raised questions and pushed for more tests, it was determined that he had been poisoned by cyanide and his death was re-classified as a homicide.
In the interview, Imtiaz Khan repeatedly declined to say if he was the grieving relative who called authorities.
However, he told the Sun-Times he vividly remembers the death of Fareedun Ansari’s first wife in Hyderabad, India, 40 years ago.
“There was a bottle of sleeping pills next to her. They said she overdosed,” Imtiaz Khan said.
Fareedun Ansari’s second wife died naturally a few years ago, but he had left her and his five children in India to fend for themselves when he arrived in the United States decades before Shabana Ansari married Urooj Khan, Imtiaz Khan said.
Fareedun Ansari moved to West Rogers Park with the couple and Jasmeen, Urooj Khan’s teenage daughter from his first marriage, when his business flopped and he complained of his failing health less than a year ago.
Shabana Ansari has been under her father’s spell ever since, Imtiaz Khan said.
Before lottery officials presented Urooj Khan with his ceremonial check at a local 7-Eleven last summer, Imtiaz Khan recalls watching the elderly man pacing back and forth, muttering: “That lottery ticket was mine.”
That’s when he saw Shabana Ansari sidle up to her father to console him. “Don’t worry, Baba [father]. It will be yours,” Imtiaz Khan said he overheard his sister-in-law say.
Since the lottery win, the father and daughter grew increasingly distant and withdrew from family get-togethers and birthday parties, Imtiaz Khan said, adding they often would forbid Jasmeen from attending the functions as well. Once, when Imtiaz Khan held a Fourth of July barbecue, Fareedun Ansari opted to spend $200 for a cab ride to Arlington Park where he spent several hundred dollars, Imtiaz Khan said.
And even though he denied it at first, Fareedun Ansari played the lottery on the day of his son-in-law’s death, using that date and the date of Urooj Khan’s upcoming birthday for his Pick 3 selection, Imtiaz Khan said.
What sickened the family more, Imtiaz Khan said, was when Fareedun Ansari turned to Urooj Khan’s dry-cleaning employees who came over to pay their condolences and said, “From now on you have to listen to madam (Shabana Ansari). She is the boss.”
To other relatives — Imtiaz Khan alleges — Fareedun Ansari allegedly warned, “I know the American law very well. My daughter is in charge of everything. Don’t try to interfere with our business. If you do, I will burn you.”
Al-Haroon Husain, Shabana Ansari’s probate attorney, said his client loved her husband and even said Urooj Khan’s siblings, including Imtiaz, inquired whether they could get in on their dead brother’s cash last fall.
Clearly her relatives are trying to “target” her, said Shabana Ansari’s criminal defense attorney, Steve Kozicki.
“There is hostility coming from that side of the family. I don’t want to get into a shouting match with them in the press,” Kozicki said.
Fareedun Ansari’s lawyer also said his client is being smeared with “falsehoods.”
He “had an excellent relationship with his son-in-law. That never changed. They remained close up until he passed away,” James Pittacora said.
But Imtiaz Khan said the father and daughter were a “cruel” pair who eventually barred relatives from retrieving Jasmeen’s belongings when she chose to live with Khan’s sister’s family.
“She made Jasmeen write a hundred times, ‘I will listen to my mother,’ after Urooj died,” Imtiaz Khan said.
“When people meet Shabana, they think she is so soft and so nice. But they don’t know the other side. … She is a like poisonous snake.”