Kerala

ATS to probe Pujari's activities in State

The government has tasked the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of the State Police Crime Branch to unearth the past activities of underworld gangster Ravi Pujari in Kerala.

A senior officer said Anup Kuruvilla John, DIG, ATS, would liaison with his counterparts in Bangalore and Mumbai to unearth Pujari's collaborators in the State, if any.

The ATS would verify reports that Pujari had set up a protection money racket in Kerala in 2015 and his victims could include wealthy businesspersons. Some might be loath to approach law enforcement.

Central agencies had used the Interpol to extradite Pujari to India from Senegal in January. He had been in hiding in the West African nation since 2005. Kerala wanted Pujari mainly in connection with a 2018 bid to extort money from celebrity Leena Maria Paul.

An officer said Pujari had set his sights on Ms. Paul as a likely target for extortion after she became implicated in a ₹18 crore bank fraud case. Pujari allegedly used a set of intermediaries to coerce Ms. Paul into wiring money to an offshore account he operated in the name of others. When the bid failed, he "threatened" to harm Ms. Paul.

When the plan failed, the accused contracted two "shooters" to fire upon Ms. Paul's beauty parlour in Kochi to prove to her that he could project his power from afar. Though none were hurt in the incident, the gun crime sent a ripple of fear in the business community and the film industry in Kochi.

Last year, the police arrested two of the suspects and recovered a .32 automatic pistol and several rounds from them.

Kerala Janapaksham (Secular) leader P.C. George, MLA, had told the police last year that he had received death threats from Pujari. He said he appeared to have earned the ire of the underworld don for having come out in support of rape case accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal. Mr, George had said he felt the police had wrongly implicated the priest in the case.

Pujari was accused of over 100 violent crimes in the country. He has 13 Interpol red corner notices against him. The accused was currently in the custody of the Mumbai police. ADGP, CB, Tomin Thachankery and IG, CB, S. Sreejith are supervising the probe.


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Printable version | Aug 6, 2021 8:58:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/ats-to-probe-pujaris-activities-in-state/article32468195.ece

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