Gangster Ravi Suliya Pujari (51), arrested in the west African country of Senegal, was brought to Bengaluru on Monday.
According to the police, in Senegal, Pujari had been living under the assumed name of Anthony Fernandes, running restaurants and “doing social work”.
“Pujari started a restaurant chain called ‘Namaste India’ with nine outlets across several West African countries. He also provided drinking water pumps in various rural areas affected by water scarcity. During Navratri, he would give clothes to the poor people. He was like a philanthropist in Senegal,” Amar Kumar Pandey, Additional Director-General of Police (Karnataka), said.
According to the police, Pujari even featured in local newspapers for his charitable work.
In India, Pujari has over 200 criminal cases against him, including of murder, extortion and other crimes.
Who is Ravi Pujari and how was he arrested?
Pujari was first traced to Burkina Faso and then to Senegal. He was finally detained at a barber’s shop in Senegal’s Dakar by the local police. Indian authorities were informed of the detention on January 21 last year, along with a request for documents to facilitate his extradition.
The identity of Pujari, who had assumed a new name, was established through fingerprints sent to Senegalese authorities. “In 1994, Pujari was arrested in a murder case in Mumbai. The police there had collected his photo and fingerprints before he was released on bail. Once out, he was involved in more murder cases in a short span of time. He then escaped to Nepal, from where he moved to Bangkok and Uganda. He lived in Burkina Faso for 12 years before going to Senegal,” said Pandey.
The police said even from Burkina Faso and Senegal, Pujari was involved in underworld activities in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, and other states.
After his identification, paperwork for Pujari’s extradition was dispatched by March 2019. In the absence of a bilateral extradition treaty with Senegal, the Indian government moved for extradition under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, adopted in 2000 as “the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organized crime”.
Pujari has cases against him under the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, which enables extradition under the UNCTOC.
The extradition process was set to begin on May 15, but the filing of a complaint against Antony Fernandes in a local crime stalled it. The gangster remained in the custody of Senegal authorities.
Ravi Pujari’s journey from Karnataka to Mumbai underworld
Ravi Pujari was born in Malpe in Karnataka’s Udupi district. He moved to Mumbai as a school dropout and started a tea stall in Andheri. After taking to a life of crime, Pujari spent most of his time in Mumbai in Dombivali.
Pujari was noticed by gangster Chhota Rajan after killing rival Bala Zalte in the 1980s, starting his association with the underworld.
Like Chhota Rajan, his once-boss in the underworld, Pujari aspired for the title of a ‘Hindu don’ or a ‘patriotic don’.
Like Rajan, Pujari started out working alongside Dawood Ibrahim. He took Rajan’s side after the Dawood gang split on communal lines following the 1993 Mumbai blasts and Rajan proclaimed himself a “Hindu don”.
Things, however, changed after an attack by the Dawood gang on Rajan’s life while he was in Bangkok in 2000. Pujari subsequently formed his own gang and tried to forge an identity for himself.
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Explained: Cases against Ravi Pujari
Many politicians and businessmen had complained of receiving death threats from Ravi Pujari in 2017 and 2018. Pujari also allegedly sent threats to activists Shehla Rashid, Umar Khalid and Jignesh Mevani in 2018. Former Karnataka education minister Tanveer Sait filed a police complaint alleging Pujari had demanded Rs 10 crore from him.
There are 97 extortion cases against Pujari in Karnataka, including 39 in Bangalore and 36 in Mangalore. In two cases of extortion in Mangalore region – from where Pujari hails – he has been sentenced to life term and a seven-year term in prison.
Pujari also has dozens of cases against him in Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat and other states.
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In 2015, he called up singer Arijit Singh. Singh, however, told the police that it was not an extortion call and that Pujari had told him “he liked his voice” and asked whether he would sing for an event he planned to organise.
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