Bengaluru: Absconding mafia don Ravi Suliya Pujari, wanted by police in four Indian states for heinous crimes, was brought to Bengaluru early Monday morning on an Air France flight after his extradition from Senegal, officials said.
The 52-year-old mafiosi, wanted by police in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala in over 200 cases, including killing and extortion, was later whisked away to an undisclosed place from the international airport under tight security.
“A four-member Karnataka Police team escorted Pujari to Bengaluru on the flight via Paris after he was extradited from the African country,” City Crime Branch Deputy Commissioner of Police Kuldeep Jain told IANS here.
The police team led by Additional Director General of Police AK Pandey comprised Bengaluru Joint Commissioner of Police Sandeep Patil, an Inspector and a Constable.
“Pujari will be presented in Additional City Metropolitan Magistrate’s (ACMM) court for judicial custody,” Jain said.
According to the police, Pujari was nabbed from a barber shop in Senegal with the help of three busloads of heavily armed police. He had assumed a fake identity of ‘Anthony Fernandes’ and acquired Burkina Faso passports for self, wife Padma and their three children.
Earlier, after he fled from Burkina Faso, authorities lost track till he re-appeared in Dakar in Senegal. Thereafter, the Indian authorities got cracking on the ‘Operation Ravi Pujari’.
“Pujari had jumped bail in Senegal last year and escaped to South Africa and got involved in big-time trafficking and extortion,” official sources said.
Pandey had procured four pending Interpol Red Corner Notices against Pujari, details of a restaurant chain (‘Namaste India’) he had partnered with in Guinea, Senegal, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast.
After Pujari resurfaced in Dakar, Pandey alerted Indian Ambassador Rajeev Kumar who approached Senegal Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Nbiaye and Director of Judicial Police Seydou Bocar Yague, who promptly helped to get the don arrested.
Pujari, who parted ways with underworld don Chhota Rajan, was wanted in over 200 cases of heinous crimes.
For running his extortion business since 2001, he employed a gang of sharpshooters to target victims either to scare them or kill them, forcing them to pay up out of sheer fear.
To avoid detection, Pujari would use VOIP/Skype to make extortion calls/threats to his victims referred to by his contacts in India and many such victims were killed in Bengaluru and Mangaluru.
Those targeted included Bollywood personalities, wealthy businessmen, doctors, realtors, jewellers, sandalwood dealers, miners and even politicians, said the police.
While Pujari and his family, who had fled India, held Burkina Faso passports, his son reportedly holds an Australian passport. The son recently got married in Australia.
Last year, Pujari, living under the identity of Anthony, jumped bail in a Senegal court through fraudulent means. IANS had accessed the don’s new passport showing his date of birth as January 25, 1961. Pujari, a movie junkie influenced by Amitabh Bachchan’s portrayal of Anthony Gonsalves in “Amar Akbar Anthony” was using the name Anthony Fernandes.
This passport was issued on July 10, 2013 and is valid till July 8, 2023. The passport showed his profession as Agent Commercial, which means that he is designated as a businessman running a chain of restaurants called ‘Namaste India’ in Senegal, Burkina Faso and neighbouring countries.
Pujari’s lawyers in Senegal had argued in the court that he is Anthony Fernandes, a businessmen from Burkina Faso as mentioned in his passport and not a fugitive as claimed by the Indian government. Karnataka’s former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy had entrusted the task of nabbing Pujari to Director General and IGP (Mrs) Neelamani Raju and Pandey.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka government led by Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Monday expressed gratitude to the Senegal government, its ministers, officials and policemen for their help in making the ‘Operation Ravi Pujari’ a success.