The accused hail from Kannur and Kozhikode

The police on Saturday arrested five men in connection with the murder of gem dealer and self-styled “royal” Hari Hara Varma, 68, here on December 24.

They identified the accused as M. Jithesh, 33; V. Ajeesh, 27; Rakhil, 24; Jitesh’s cousin, Rakesh, 21; and J. Joseph, 20. They hail from lower middle class families in Kannur and Kozhikode districts and were part of a fraternity of Malayali students in Bangalore. Joseph is the son of a planter in Karnataka. All are first offenders with no previous police record.

Investigators said that Jitesh, who was occasionally Varma’s middleman in “shadowy” deals involving the transaction of antiques and jewels of questionable value, had plotted the crime to make quick money.

They said that Jitesh had, of late, become sceptical of Varma’s claim that the “gems” in his possession were family heirlooms. Jitesh suspected the stones were stolen and reckoned that Varma would not approach the police if he could steal them himself. (The police would subsequently recover the stones from the suspects and find them to be of scarce value).

Varma insisted that buyers approaching him prove their solvency, as a rich collector did in November, by paying a non-refundable cash advance of not less than Rs.50,000 just for viewing the “gems.”