Over the past few years, law enforcement authorities have successfully brought back mafia kingpins, from Chhota Rajan to Ravi Pujari, who were operating their syndicates in Mumbai from outside India.
This crackdown, however, has come as an opportunity for homegrown criminals, who are trying to fill the vacuum created by the arrests of the big guns of the Mumbai underworld.
Over the past one month, a slew of incidents have surfaced in which history-sheeters, operating out of Mumbai, have started making extortion demands.
Foremost among them is Uday Pathak (49), presently in jail for allegedly killing four men in Kurar, Malad (East), by slitting their throats. The case came to be known as the ‘Kurar Quadruple’.
On February 1, unidentified men fired at a chemist’s shop and an imitation jewellery trader in Malad (East). Police found a chit at the chemist’s with the gang’s name on it (‘Uday Pathak Rahul Mandri Vicky Pise Pathak gang’) and a demand of Rs 5 crore against a death threat.
This was similar to the modus operandi that Pathak used in three extortion cases registered against him ever since he was put behind bars in 2011 in the Kurar quadruple case. Before that, he had been booked for 12 major offences.
Pathak, originally from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, became known in Kurar area after the 2011 quadruple murders, in which four men, who had a fight with Pathak over a minor issue, were tortured, their throats slit, and bodies burnt and dumped atop a hill in Kurar. The case had sent shock waves across the city for its brutality, but ended with Pathak and his aides behind bars. However, local residents say the case consolidated his reputation in the area.
A police officer said the next thing Pathak did was to form a gang on the outside that could make money through extortion. Here, he put his confidence into Babu Chintale, one of his chiefs.
“Chintale was also arrested for the Kurar murders but was discharged from the case and was out in 2014 and started collecting money for illegal parking lots in Kurar. Ever since, he has been Pathak’s main man on the outside, identifying people who can be threatened and coordinating with Pathak on his court dates,” reads the dossier on Pathak, submitted by the Mumbai Police for invoking the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against him. All the documents have been accessed by The Indian Express.
The officer said after identifying the victim, Chintale would order one of his men to fire near the victim and leave behind a chit.
“Pathak dictates the contents and a fellow inmate at Arthur Road writes them down. In the Malad case, the chit was handed over to his gang members who came to meet him while he was entering the police van from Arthur Road jail to go for his hearing at the sessions court. If the chit does not work, then one of his aides gets a small mobile phone to court and calls up the victim when the ‘police party’ (local armed police personnel accompanying him) are not watching. We got to know that despite being behind bars, some people were paying him extortion money,” the officer added.
Two years back, however, Pathak’s extortion racket received a blow after his brother Jeetendra, who allegedly terrorised builders in the area and was a history-sheeter, was murdered by his own gang members in UP. Apart from his brother, his father was also arrested in a murder case and was released only a few years back.
An officer said, “His father came to Mumbai from UP and started capturing land to build chawls in Kurar. Pathak took after his father and also helped his cousin, who worked with a well-known builder, for clearing land. He has been operating as a criminal since 1998.”
Additional Commissioner of Police (North region) Dilip Sawant said, “The main thing we have done is invoking the MCOCA against 10 people comprising his entire gang, including Chintale. They will now be behind bars for at least a few years, leaving no operatives on the outside.”
An officer said in addition, police will also be sending their men to court during each of Pathak’s hearings. This will be to ensure that he cannot make calls from there.
Besides Pathak, the Mumbai Crime Branch arrested Harish Mandvikar last week, a convict in the murder case of matka king Suresh Bhagat. It came to light that Mandvikar would collect money from people under the garb of “resolving disputes”, especially in the northern suburbs. The Crime Branch arrested two other members of Mandvikar’s gang who were involved.
On March 2, Mumbai Police arrested a cousin of gangster Prasad Poojari for allegedly helping in the extortion racket in the eastern suburbs. The accused, identified as Sukesh Kumar (28), was arrested from Udipi after a police probe found that Kumar was transferring money to Poojari’s henchmen through ATMs. The link came to light after an investigation into a recent extortion case in which a Vikhroli builder received a threat call from Poojari.
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