Updated: March 20, 2021 7:32:44 am
In the end, it was WhatsApp that got him.
First, an FIR was lodged against him last October under Gujarat’s stringent anti-terror law that allows “interceptions and confessions before a police officer” to be accepted as evidence in a court of law. Then, data related to “IP addresses that he used to make the extortion calls from, via WhatsApp”, were obtained while tracking money being moved through illegal channels like the “hawala” network.
Finally this week, Jamnagar police and central agencies were able to close in on Jayesh Ranpariya, the alleged gangster, part-time politician, land shark, extortionist and murder accused. They found the 41-year-old in Croydon in London where he is believed to have been hiding since 2018.
Wanted for the murder of Kirit Joshi, a well-known criminal lawyer of Jamnagar, Ranpariya alias Jayesh Patel was detained by Interpol on Wednesday and produced before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court where he refused consent to be extradited to India. He was then sent to Wandsworth prison, where diamantaire Nirav Modi is lodged, and is due to be produced in court again on March 24.
The arrest marked the end of a long run on the wrong side of the law for the son of a farmer from Lonthiya village, 30 km from Jamnagar. Today, police officers told The Indian Express, Ranpariya faces 45 cases, including those related to Joshi’s murder, and attempts to murder Prof Parsottam Rajani, a college lecturer and property dealer, and builders Girish Der and Hasu Pedhadiya — all in Jamnagar.
He also faces cases of land-grabbing, money-laundering, cigarette-smuggling, forgery and resisting custody in Jamnagar, Rajkot, Surat, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.
DGP Ashish Bhatia told The Indian Express that police will soon prepare a proposal for Ranpariya’s extradition and is “hopeful” it will be cleared “as he had committed some of the crimes when he was based in London”.
According to officers who have tracked Ranpariya, he stepped out of the fringes in the 1990s when he moved to Jamnagar town to work in a garment shop and later opened an STD booth. He then started a brass parts business but was booked for cheating in 1999 and vehicle theft in 2000.
By 2008, he had started grabbing land while dabbling in politics. So much so, that in the Jamnagar Municipal Corporation election of 2015, he fielded eight candidates under the banner of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Party — two of them won. Ranpariya’s wife, meanwhile, started a midday newspaper in Gujarati, Nawanagar Time, which was in print till recently.
Over the last decade, officers said, Ranpariya rose to prominence by targeting prime land in upscale areas of Jamnagar. Describing the modus operandi, Jamnagar SP Deepan Bhadran said Ranpariya’s associates would organise “a disputed title for a piece of land by forging documents and claim ownership, and then extort money from the real owner in the name of settling the dispute”. “Realtors would be threatened to either pay the money or part with the land,” he said.
“We believe that he used Joshi’s murder to intimidate other targets and force them to withdraw their cases against him,” said a police officer.
Officers trace Joshi’s killing to a case filed in 2016 by Vinodchandra Mehta, a leading builder of Jamnagar, who alleged that Ranpariya and his gang had grabbed his plot of land worth Rs 100 crore in the Eva Park area of Jamnagar.
Mehta hired Joshi, known for his aggressive style inside the courtroom, to fight the case. And Ranpariya was arrested in December 2016 and jailed after being denied bail in the Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court — he did obtain regular bail in late 2017 from the apex court.
In September 2017, Ranpariya filed a complaint accusing Aniyo Lamba, a history-sheeter of Jamnagar, and an associate, Hasmukh Pedhadiya, of shooting at him with an intent to kill. It turned out that Pedhadiya’s brother Jaysukh, a builder, was part of Joshi’s circle. “This brought matters to a head and Ranpariya gave a contract to have the advocate killed,” said the officer.
On April 18, 2018, three persons, described by police as contract killers, stabbed Joshi to death in public view in Jamnagar. By then, police said, Ranpariya had fled the country allegedly on a forged passport. “While hiding abroad, he extorted money from businessmen and builders of Jamnagar through local operatives. He also made extortion calls to a big businessman whose influential family later petitioned the highest levels in the state and Central governments against him,” said sources.
It was after this that Bhadran, a 2007-batch IPS officer and head of Ahmedabad Crime Branch, was posted to Jamnagar in September last year. The posting was taken note of by Rajya Sabha MP Parimal Nathwani, who is also director-corporate affairs at Jamnagar-based Reliance Industries Ltd. Taking to Twitter, Nathwani wrote that Bhadran would “use his brilliance & firm hands on criminals”.
The next month, a case was booked against Ranpariya under the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (GCTOC) Act, and several people were arrested, including Ranpariya’s lawyer. “Once we broke the syndicate of those harbouring criminals, finance-routers and those holding property, he (Ranpariya) stopped getting money and we were able to corner him,” said a police officer.
On Thursday, a day after Ranpariya was apprehended, Jamnagar police arrested the three men who had allegedly killed Joshi from Kolkata.
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