Two months after he was nabbed by the Philippines Police, dreaded absconding gangster Suresh Pujari was deported to India and brought from New Delhi to Mumbai to face charges for nearly two dozen serious crimes here, officials said on Wednesday.
In a top-secret operation, Pujari was flown from Philippines to New Delhi where he was arrested by a waiting team of Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) around 2 a.m., and later brought to Mumbai on a commercial flight.
The ATS recovered 2 international mobile SIM cards from him and the arrest happened just 4 days before the validity of his red corner notice of December 20, 2016 was to expire – on December 19.
He was whisked off to Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in Thane which granted 10 days police custody in an extortion case registered at the Mahatma Phule Chowk Police Station which the ATS is investigating.
In mid-October, Pujari was nabbed by the Paranaque police’s Fugitive Search Unit in southern Manila metropolitan region and the extradition process was initiated, culminating in his deportation late on Tuesday to New Delhi.
On the run since 2007, Pujari, soon after he landed in New Delhi, was handed over to a team of Intelligence Bureau and Central Bureau of Investigation.
After the CBI interrogation, he was handed over to a waiting team of Mumbai Police Crime Branch and ATS.
The Mumbai and Thane Police had already issued red-corner notices against him in 2016, as he was wanted for several major crimes registered here against him.
Pujari is a relative of another notorious mafiosi, Ravi Pujari, who was deported to India from west Africa’s Senegal in February 2020, and is currently in custody being probed by central agencies and police of Karnataka, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.
Shortly after he sneaked out of the country in 2007, the Mumbai Police had shared a detailed dossier on Suresh Pujari with the Centre over a decade ago, said officials.
Since the two Pujaris fell out due to territorial disputes, Suresh Pujari, along with a few others, launched independent mafia operations in the early 2000s, with activities in parts of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, and Thane regions.
Living in Asalpha area of Ghatkopar suburb in north-east Mumbai, he managed to hoodwink the law enforcers and slipped out of almost India 15 years ago.
Later, the InterPol issued a notice for him and the Maharashtra Police was closely monitoring his movements in different countries.
Suresh Pujari faces at least 10 major cases of extortion, threats to murder, killings, etc, in Mumbai, Thane and more offences elsewhere in the MMR region, other cities and the Mumbai Police CID, the CBI and the FBI were on the lookout for him in the past nearly 15 years.
Going by aliases like Suresh Pai, he and his associates had allegedly made extortion-cum-threat calls to several top builders, contractors, and glamour world celebs in the early 2000s, organised or ordered gangland killings, etc.
“The businessmen, liquor shop owners of Mumbai and South India were on his radar. He used to make extortion calls. He had also threatened a few politicians,” said an IB official, requesting anonymity.
“Most of the time Suresh Pujari would open fire at the house of his target, though he wouldn’t hurt anybody. Later, he used to drop threat letters demanding money. He did this in Ulhasnagar, Kalyan, Dombivali, and Thane areas of Mumbai. His victims were too terrified to approach the police, but a few had reported the matter to the police,” said a source.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)