NEARLY 25 years after he left Mumbai and fled the country, gangster Ravi Pujari was brought back to the city early Tuesday morning by the Mumbai crime branch. Mumbai Police got his custody from Karnataka Police after the Senegal authorities — from where Pujari was extradited last year — approved his trial in 10 cases in Mumbai.
The Mumbai police, where there are 49 cases against the gangster, have sent a list of another 15 cases to Senegal authorities seeking approval for prosecution.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Milind Bharambe said, “We got custody of Pujari from Karnataka prison last night and he was brought to the city early Tuesday morning by road with a security cordon.”
Pujari was produced before the special MCOCA court on Tuesday afternoon by the police for his alleged involvement in making a threat call to a restaurant owner in the city. The court sent him to police custody till March 9.
Pujari, wearing a bright T-shirt, was brought with a black veil around him. When asked by the court if he had any complaints against the police, he said no. Further, special public prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves sought Pujari’s custody stating that since he had been absconding for nearly a decade, the investigation in the case is pending.
Gonsalves further submitted that the police want to probe whether the attack on the restaurant owner in 2016 was done at the behest of someone else. Gonsalves submitted that the probe includes questioning the gangster on where he arranged the finances and how he procured a firearm for the incident. Two of his men had also fired a shot at the restaurant.
Pujari’s lawyer Dilraj Sequeira sought the full list submitted to the Senegal authorities of cases he will be tried for in the city. The prosecution, however, said that it was not part of the hearing of this case. The lawyer also sought to video record Pujari’s questioning, which was also opposed by the prosecution saying that no such provision existed in law.
“Prima facie, there is ample evidence on record to show the accused’s involvement. Considering the seriousness of the allegations, the investigation officer should be given sufficient opportunity,” the court said.
While the court also permitted Pujari’s lawyer to meet him once in two days for a few minutes when he is in police custody, the prosecution sought for the conversation between them to be in Hindi, Marathi or English and not Tulu, the language spoken by the gangster.
An officer said that the police team will be taking custody of the accused in the 10 other cases registered against him in the city. These are the major cases registered against him including attempt to murder cases against filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, builder Suresh Wadhwa and advocate Majeed Memon among others.
“Apart from these 10 cases, we are hopeful that we shall get permission to prosecute him in the 15 other cases for which we have sent a proposal to authorities in Senegal,” an officer said.
Earlier, the Bengaluru sessions court had given permission to the Mumbai police to take Pujari’s custody for 10 days in connection with the case relating to the conspiracy to murder a political leader. Pujari’s lawyer, however, approached the Karnataka High Court on the ground that the extradition order from Senegal did not mention any cases registered in Mumbai.
When Mumbai police sought clarification from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) – that communicated with Senegal authorities in February 2019 when he was detained there – it confirmed that Mumbai police cases had not been mentioned in the extradition order passed by Senegal authorities while extraditing him to India.
The Mumbai police then sought his custody from Senegal authorities to prosecute Pujari in the 10 serious offences registered against him in the city. Last week after a hearing, the authorities agreed to allow prosecution in these cases. In addition to this, permission to prosecute Pujari in three more cases each in Karnataka, Kerala and Gujarat was also obtained from the Senegal authorities.
In January 2019, Pujari had been detained from Senegal, where he was staying under a false identity. It took a year to bring Pujari to India, when the Karnataka police brought him to the country in February 2020.