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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Gangster Ravi Pujari held: Senegal court starts hearing extradition plea today

Pujari, 50, was detained, and subsequently arrested, by local police in the capital of the West African nation on January 19 this year based on information provided by Karnataka Police.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru | Published: May 15, 2019 1:03:20 am
Karnataka top cop set to go to Senegal for Ravi Pujari’s extradition Ravi Pujari (50) was detained in Dakar on January 19 on the basis of information provided by Indian agencies. (File)

A local court in Dakar, Senegal, will begin hearing the case for extradition of Indian gangster Ravi Pujari from Wednesday, it is learnt.

Pujari, 50, was detained, and subsequently arrested, by local police in the capital of the West African nation on January 19 this year based on information provided by Karnataka Police.

Senegal’s interior ministry had informed the Indian authorities about his arrest on January 21.

Confirming that the extradition hearings are scheduled to begin from May 15, a Karnataka Police officer said, “It could take a few weeks, or even a few months, depending on the way the case progresses.”

There are 97 cases — mostly related to extortion — against Pujari in Karnataka. Pujari also has dozens of cases registered against him in Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat and other states.

In the absence of a bilateral extradition treaty with Senegal, the Centre and police in Karnataka and Maharashtra are looking at extraditing Pujari under the United Nations Convention against Transna-tional Organized Crime, adopted in 2000 as the “main international instrument in fight against transnational organized crime’’.

Since Senegal does not award death penalty for crimes in that country, the extradition process may require a guarantee that Pujari will not be executed if convicted under Indian laws in which capital punishments are ordered, officials said.

Dakar police located and detained Pujari at a barber shop in January after he was tracked across several west African countries by Indian authorities.

The police found Pujari was living under an assumed identity of one Antony Fernandes — he had built an image for himself as a philanthropist and was featured in local newspapers for ostensibly doing charity work in Senegal and Burkina Faso, another country in west Africa.

His identity has been positively established through fingerprints sent to Senegalese authorities, and paperwork for the extradition — including French translations of chargesheets against Pujari’s aides — have been sent to Senegal, officers said.

“The documentation of case details reported in vernacular language from across the country were translated in English and then re-translated in French (Senegal’s official language). They have been completed and sent to judicial authorities of that country through diplomatic channels for completion of the extradition (process),’’ Karnataka’s Additional DGP Amar Kumar Pandey, who has played a key role in the arrest and extradition process, said.

A tip-off about Pujari being a partner in a restaurant chain in some west African countries set Karnataka Police on the gangster’s trail last year.

Indian authorities are hopeful of clinching Pujari’s extradition since Senegal has a record of being tough on international criminals, and fugitives from Italy and China have been extradited by the west African nation in recent times.

Pujari has employed the services of a top lawyer in Senegal and is likely to contest the extradition procedure when it begins in court, an officer said.

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