More than a year after he was arrested in the west African country of Senegal on the basis of information provided by Indian agencies, notorious extortionist and gangster Ravi Suliya Pujari, 51, will be brought to Bengaluru to stand trial in a murder case early on Monday following completion of the extradition process from Senegal.
A police team from Bengaluru “will be reaching with him on an Air France flight tonight”, Karnataka police sources familiar with the arrest and extradition process said on Sunday.
An Air France flight from Paris is scheduled to arrive in Bengaluru a little after midnight and Pujari has been put on the flight after he was brought to Paris from Senegal, the police sources said.
A senior police officer in Karnataka, Amar Kumar Pandey, involved in locating Pujari and coordinating his arrest and extradition process with officials of the Ministry of External Affairs and other Indian agencies, has been out of the country over the past week after handing over responsibilities of the post of Additional Director General (law and order) to a colleague.
The state police set in motion the process for Pujari’s extradition, with the help of the government of India, to stand trial, primarily in a 2007 shootout case in which his gunmen killed two employees of a south Bengaluru real estate agency, Shabnam Developers, after its owner resisted his extortion attempts. There are 96 other cases against Pujari in Karnataka of extortion, including 39 in Bengaluru and 36 in Mangaluru. There are also dozens of cases against him in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala and other states.
Last year, the Ministry of External Affairs had given clearances to ADGP Pandey to travel to Senegal to facilitate Pujari’s extradition.
Tracking and finding Pujari proved to be a difficult task for the police since the gangster always used Voice Over Internet protocols for communicating with associates in the countries where he operated. When Pujari made extortion calls, call records on the victims’ phones would show the location of countries in the Pacific region, western Europe and Africa, police sources said.
A tip-off about Pujari being a partner in a restaurant chain called “Namaste India” in several west African countries set the police on his trail in 2018 and eventually lead to his arrest in Senegal on January 19, 2019.
Indian agencies picked up Pujari’s trail in the west African country of Burkina Faso, where he was partnering a few Indian associates.
Pujari who was living under the identity of Antony Fernandes — a Burkina Faso national and businessman — had built an image for himself as a philanthropist and was even featured in local newspapers for his charitable work. While trying to track him down in Burkina Faso, the Indian officials found that Pujari had moved over to Senegal.
Pujari was eventually located and detained at a barber’s shop in Dakar in Senegal by Dakar police. Senegal’s interior ministry informed Indian authorities on January 21 about the detention to facilitate the process of extradition of the gangster with requisite documents.
The identity of Pujari, who had assumed a new name, was established through fingerprints sent to Senegalese authorities. Paper work for the extradition were dispatched by March 2019.
In the absence of a bilateral extradition treaty with Senegal, the Indian government moved for extraditing Pujari under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, adopted 2000 as “the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organized crime”. Pujari has cases filed against him under the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, which enables extradition under the UNCTOC.
The process of extradition was set to begin on May 15 but the filing of a complaint with respect to a local crime against Antony Fernandes alias Pujari stalled the extradition process. The gangster, however, remained in the custody of Senegal authorities.
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