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Mumbai Police secure custody of gangster Ravi Pujari

by Raju Vernekar
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By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Feb 21: 

A notorious gangster Ravi Pujari, wanted in over 150 cases across India and who was extradited to India from Senegal (Dakar, West Africa) last year, will be brought to Mumbai from Bengaluru in Karnataka possibly on Monday. 
Pujari is wanted in nearly 52 cases including murder, extortion, and shootouts in Mumbai over the past 20 years. He was extradited to India, from Senegal in February 2020 and is at present in the custody of Bengaluru police. He will be brought to Mumbai next week with Bengaluru’s court giving his custody to Mumbai Police on Saturday. The Mumbai Police Crime Branch has secured his custody in connection with the firing in Gajalee restaurant at Vile Parle in northwest Mumbai in 2016.  
The mafioso first came into the news in early 2000 when he started extorting huge amounts from  Bollywood personalties and builders. He was involved in an attempt to murder a case aimed at killing a prominent lawyer of Mumbai. Subsequently, he, along with his wife Padma and three children fled India. His son who married in Australia last year reportedly holds an Australian passport. 
“The process of taking Pujari’s custody has been completed. We have succeeded in getting custody of Gangster Pujari in the Gajalee restaurant firing case. A team led by senior police inspector Sachin Kadam will go to Karnataka to take over his custody. Once in Mumbai, he will be produced before a special court”, Joint Commissioner of Police Milind Bharambe said. 
Earlier, efforts by Mumbai Police’s crime branch to take the gangster’s custody had failed due to various legal hurdles. At the time of his extradition, authorities in Senegal from where he was extradited, were informed by Karnataka Police only about their cases. Due to this, Pujari’s lawyer opposed his custody to the Mumbai Police. Then Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh took up the matter with the centre. 
The MHA/MEA intervened
Based on the request by the Mumbai Police, the Union ministry of home affairs and the Union ministry of external affairs intervened and represented their case before authorities in Senegal and sought permission for granting his custody to Mumbai Police. Senegal authorities then permitted Mumbai Police to take the custody and the documents were accordingly submitted before the special court (functioning on the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Act (MCOCA), in Bengaluru. The court issued a warrant on Saturday. 
Pujari was staying in Senegal since 2010. He was arrested from a saloon in Senegal on 21 January 2019 by local police. However, he jumped bail from Senegal and escaped to South Africa in June 2019. He was stated to be involved in big-time drug trafficking and extortion racket. He was once a right-hand man of the underworld don Chhota Rajan (now in the custody of Mumbai Police) and had parted ways with him. 
Pujari operated under a fake name
Pujari was using the name “Antony Fernandes and was carrying a passport (No. 03010400228108450) in the fake name of Anthony Fernandes issued in Burkina Faso, on July 10, 2013 ( which was valid July 06, 2023). The passport carried January 25, 1961, as his date of birth, and Mysore(Karnataka) as his place of birth. .He was hiding as Antony Fernandes in a remote village of South Africa.  
His passport showed his profession as “Agent Commercial” meaning that he was designated
as a businessman and was running a chain of restaurants “Namaste India” in Senegal, Burkina Faso, and neighbouring countries. He was not a fugitive as claimed by the Indian Government, his lawyer had earlier argued in the Senegal court. 
Based on a tip-off from the Indian external intelligence agency, Senegal police caught the gangster. He was then brought to India on February 23, 2020, by a team of officers, including senior IPS officers from Karnataka. 
After his arrest, Mumbai Police’s anti-extortion cell (AEC) compiled a dossier with details of cases against him in Mumbai for his extradition. The selected cases were mostly registered under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). Apart from the documents, we collected biometric proof, including DNA samples collected from his family. 
A senior crime branch officer said police in Karnataka, Kerala, and Gujarat, and other cities have also prepared similar dossiers which were submitted to the home ministry, from where these were sent to the authorities in Senegal. 
Cases in Mumbai
The incident took place at about 11.45 pm on October 21, 2016, when two members of Pujari’s gang, identified as Das and Momin, visited Gajalee restaurant. While Momin waited outside, Das entered the restaurant and handed over a chit to one of the staff. He threatened the staff that he would kill him if he failed to follow his instructions. He also boasted that he is from Pujari’s gang. While returning the duo fired and fled on the motor cycle. Later the anti-extortion cell (AEC) arrested seven accused on charges of supplying and possessing illegal arms. Pujari is a wanted accused in this case, since it was stated that when the telephone calls demanding ransom, made to the owner of the restaurant went unanswered, he sent two men to scare him.Besides, he is also wanted in a sizable number of cases of extortion threats to Bollywood filmmakers. 
Cases in Karnataka
46 cases are registered by Karnataka police against Pujari. They include five major ones, including the murder of a developer Subbaraju in 2001 in Bengaluru and a brutal attack in 2007 on a developer running “Shabnam Developers”. Also, a host of cases of criminal intimidation under IPC section 506, criminal intimidation by anonymous communication under IPC section 507, and threatening to life to commit extortion under IPC section 387 have been registered against him in Girinagar, Sadashivanagar Mahalakshmi Layout, High Grounds, and Magadi Road police stations in Karnataka. Most of the cases registered against him have been charge-sheeted. 
Cases in Gujarat
Over 56 cases are registered by Gujarat police, including a case of extortion threat to Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani. Besides, more than 26 cases of extortion calls and the offence of firing on a man named Pragnesh Patel of Anand have been registered. Pujari made frequent extortion calls to builders, professionals, politicians and jewellers in Gujarat. He had called up at different times more than 70 targets in Gujarat, but most of them didn’t come forward to divulge further details. In three to four cases, the victims paid extortion money. But others remained tight-lipped.
Pujari has been trying to avoid the Mumbai police because of its strong dragnet and also he is afraid of probable attack from his rivals lodged in jails in Mumbai.

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