INDIA: Wanted criminal & underworld kingpin, Ravi Pujari, was arrested in South Africa this past weekend. Pujari remained a fugitive on the run for over 15 years with a number of links to Bollywood A-listers.
Indian vocalist Arijit Singh, actor and producers Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Karan Johar, Rakesh Roshan, and Shahrukh Khan have also been victims of death threats by Pujari between 2009 and 2013.
Pujari operated under the name of Anthony Fernandes, a Burkina Faso passport holder, had opened a chain of Indian restaurants known as ‘Namaste India.’ The restaurant chain has franchises in Senegal, Burkina Faso and one in Gauteng, South Africa that has been closed as well.
Senegalese, Indian and South African Intelligence joint operations
It was a concerted effort by the South African security agencies, Senegalese authorities and the India Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW or RAW) intelligence that ended Pujari’s reign of terror.
According to reports from Indian Intelligence sources, Pujari had been nabbed in a remote South African village, living under the alias Anthony Fernandes. On a tip-off from the Indian intelligence, the Senegal police flew to South Africa last week where the arrest was made.
“A four-member Karnataka Police team brought Pujari to Bengaluru in the wee hours of the day in an Air France flight via Paris after he was extradited from Senegal in Africa,” Karnataka City Crime Branch Deputy Commissioner of Police Kuldeep Jain stated to IANS.
After his arrest, Pujari was transferred under high security conditions during his transfer from Bangalore airport to detainment by Karnataka police. Pujari was taken to an undisclosed location in the city from the Bangalore International airport. The gangster is wanted in connection with over 200 cases of crimes that include murder and extortion.
“Pujari will be produced in the first Additional City Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) court in the city for judicial custody,” Jain said.
Who is Ravi Pujari?
Pujari has been linked to underworld don Chhota Rajan, who he parted ways with, and he then jumped bail from Senegal last year an escaped to South Africa. The Indian gangster has also been involved in large-scale drug trafficking and extortion operations some suspected to be run from Benoni, Gauteng. Pujari is believed to have built up goodwill and also a good network among the local businessmen of Indian origin.
It was his early days as a aspiring criminal that Pujari was recruited by Chhota Rajan’s gang after he murdered Zalte and was known as one of Rajan’s protegees. In the mid-1990s, three of Ravi Pujari’s men allegedly shot Om Prakash Kukreja of Kukreja Builders in his office in Mumbai.
Although he was known as a philanthropist in Senegal, police sources say that it was the August 2017 threat call to Bengaluru MP DK Suresh, that set off the police’s chase against him.
Pujari’s wife Padma and three children also fled India and some are believed to hold Burkina Faso passports. His son, who was recently married in Australia, reportedly holds an Australian passport.
The mafia boss shot to notoriety in 2000 when news broke of his extortion scam, that saw huge amounts of money being stolen from A-list Bollywood personalities and businessmen. Another case he is going to be charged for was an attempted murder case against a leading Mumbai lawyer.
Pujari’s lawyers in Senegal had argued in the court citing 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. Clearly indicating a collusion between top government functionaries of Burkina Faso and Pujari in which an influential Indian businessman, who is his partner in a restaurant chain, may have played a role of conduit.
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Sources: IANS, PTI