An underworld conspiracy to assassinate a Shimoga trader after he refused to heed to extortion demands by underworld operative Bannanje Raja was foiled by the Hubli-Dharwad police on Friday with the arrest of six persons including five associates of the notorious gangster. The police have seized three revolvers and 18 rounds of live cartridges which the gangsters were allegedly smuggling to Shimoga City to attack areca businessman Omkarappa. The businessman had received an extortion call a few months ago when areca prices had soared, police said.
After Bannanje Raja, whose gang was involved in the killing of a transport businessman in Karwar in December last year, made the threat call, the Shimoga businessman filed a police complaint on June 1 with the Vinobanagar police station in Shimoga city. The investigation by the Shimoga police revealed that the gangster’s associates were planning to bring weapons from Bijapur via Hubli to eliminate Omkarappa.
The Shimoga police informed the Hubli-Dharwad police and sought assistance to nab the gang, police commissioner of Hubli-Dharwad Ravindra Prasad said.
The Hubli police took a serious view of the issue and formed a special team to nab the associates of Bannanje Raja. The gangsters were nabbed after they tried to flee from a police interception point on Kusagal Road in Hubli on Friday. The arrested accused were identified as Ijaz Bandenawaz Patel (26) of Bijapur district, Vilasa Keshava Rathod (23) of Arakeri Tanda, Husain alias Gidda Saifan Shekha (25) of Halasangi, Abbas and Ali Mohammed Mulla Khan (50), Hajarat Ali alias Babu Mohammed Gouse Momin (24) of Hubli and car driver Sangamesha Nasi (28) of Bijapur.
The Hubli-Dharwad police said that all five persons excluding the driver of the car were involved in many criminal cases. Abbas Ali and Hajarat Ali were arrested by the Bijapur police and Goa police in connection with different cases and were recently released from the Goa jail on bail, police said. “We managed to arrest the associates of Bannanje Raje while they were smuggling weapons to Shimoga to eliminate a businessman. We have handed over all the accused persons to the Shimoga police for the investigation of their case,” Ravindra Prasad said. The accused have told the Hubli-Dharwad police that they purchased the weapons in Madhya Pradesh.
The Shimoga police meanwhile said that they had registered a case of extortion against Bannanje Raja based on the complaint by Omkarappa. The police investigation into the case led to the initial arrest of two persons identified as Mahesha alias Achangi Mahesh Basavegowda of Sakaleshpur and Navale Ananda Yellappa of Shimoga. The detailed questioning of the duo revealed the gang’s plans to smuggle weapons from Bijapur to carry out the killing of the businessman.
The notorious Bannanje Raja gang which has its roots in the coastal Karnataka region was involved last year in the daylight killing of BJP leader and Karwar businessman Ramachandra Narayana Nayak in the Ankola town. One of the sharp shooters sent by Raja was gunned down in the incident when a bodyguard of the businessman returned fire. A few years ago Bannanje Raja had been detained in the UAE by local authorities but was not extradited to India.