Puneet, who jumped bail, is wanted in a hit-and-run case

Australia has announced a Rs. 57 lakh-reward for information leading to the location, arrest and subsequent return of an Indian involved in a four-year-old hit and run accident in Melbourne.

The accused, Puneet, is believed to be living in India although his exact whereabouts are unknown.

The 23-year-old jumped bail and fled Australia on another person’s passport after being charged with culpable driving and negligently causing serious injury leading to the death of Dean Hofstee, a 19-year-old student.

Experts estimate at the time of the accident Puneet was driving at 148 km/h in a 60km/h zone. Puneet’s blood alcohol reading was 0.165 – more than three times the legal limit for a fully licensed driver and as a learner driver it should have been zero, claimed Australian High Commission officials.

Puneet was granted bail on strict conditions, including the surrender of his Indian passport, but he failed to attend his August 2009 court hearing.

Authorities later discovered that Puneet had left Australia two months before the hearing using the passport of another Indian student, Sukhcharanjit Singh who has been convicted and sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment for the offence.

“We believe that there are people in Australia and India who can provide information in relation to Puneet’s whereabouts,” said Australian High Commission Peter Verghese. “Puneet’s actions caused the victim’s families a lot of anguish. We ask that anyone with any piece of information to contact police or Crime Stoppers.”

The Australian Federal Police based in New Delhi have been working with the Central Bureau of Investigation on the case. The reward offered by the Victorian Government will support efforts by Indian authorities to locate and apprehend Puneet.

The High Commission has requested anyone with information about the whereabouts of Puneet to call the Australian Federal Police in Delhi on 011 4149 4374. Information can also be provided online at www.crimestoppers.com.au.