Taxi driver, associates charged with murder for jewellery worth Rs. 3 crore

Sheer negligence proved fatal for Visakhapatnam jeweller Manoj Kumar Grandhi, investigation revealed here on Thursday. He was carrying at least Rs. 3 crore worth of gold and diamonds without either any security or weapons for self-defence.

The 44-year-old proprietor of the prestigious Vaibhav Empire Private Limited in Visakhapatnam went missing from Bangalore on Tuesday morning. His decomposed body was found in the thick woods in the Charmadi Ghats in Mudigere taluk, 260 km from here, on Thursday noon.

Three employees of a car rental company were arrested on kidnap and murder charges. City Police Commissioner B.G. Jyothi Prakash Mirji, at a press conference here on Thursday, named the suspects as K.V. Ravikumar (26) of Singasandra, R. Shivakumar (26) and B. Krishne Gowda (28) from Manakuppe village in Gubbi taluk.

Ravikumar was Mr. Grandhi's driver and the other two are office assistants of Car Zone, the car rental company.

Bags were open

Mr. Grandhi, a close friend of Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah's son-in-law P. Krishna Prasad, planned to expand his jewellery business in Bangalore and was looking for an appropriate site.

He took a flight from Hyderabad on February 6 and, on landing here, rented a car from Car Zone.

“He was carrying three bags full of gold, diamonds and antique jewellery. He was not accompanied by any security guards nor was he carrying any weapon,” a top police officer told The Hindu. Incredibly, the bags had no locks either.

Mr. Grandhi had Ravikumar drive him to various places and jewelleries in the city on February 6.

“He left the bags in the car when he went visiting. The driver, who had enough time to check their contents, decided to rob him,” the officer said.

“Ravikumar's initial plan was to only to rob the victim. However, the trio later decided to kill him.”

Ravikumar, who called the other two to plan the robbery, dropped Mr. Grandhi at his hotel with the understanding that he would pick him up early the following morning for an airport drop as he was to fly to Mumbai

On February 7, Ravikumar him picked up and drove towards the airport. But en route, at the BDA flyover near the CBI office on Bellary Road, he stopped for his accomplices who were waiting in another car. They bundled him into the other vehicle, gagging and strangling him to death, Mr. Mirji said. They then shifted the body into a third car under the Hebbal flyover and drove to the Charmudi Ghats 260 km away, dumping the body in a valley.

Initially, Mr. Grandhi's relatives refused to file the complaint. The city police had to persuade them to do so and it was registered at the International Airport police station.

Manhunt launched

The city police formed special teams to track down Mr. Grandhi, scouring through lodges in the vicinity of Majestic. They verified the details of entries and exits of thousands of vehicles at almost all toll collection centres on all the highways leading out of the city. They then turned to Ravikumar whose contradictory statements made them suspicious. The trio was then at a Gandhinagar lodge late on Wednesday.

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