The Crime Branch on Monday arrested five Ravi Pujari gang men who had allegedly spread terror amongst developers and businessmen in the western suburbs.
Joint commissioner of Police (crime) Himanshu Roy said with these arrests, an "important module"of Pujari's Mumbai operation has been neutralised.
Roy said Raju Bhandari, Lala Soni, P.D. Nepali —from Nepal — , and Tannu Thakkar and Harshad Maru — from Gujarat — had executed three firing incidents across the western suburbs in the last two months.
These included the firing at Eeshwardas building at Khar on June 4, at Concord builder's office at DN Nagar on June 30 and at Notandas jewelers at Oshiwara on July 14.
Roy said in every incident that was meant to scare developers or businessmen to give in to the extortion demands, the shooters would leave a chit with Pujari's cell number (of a foreign country) on it.
Usually, the chit would be left with the watchman or the staff of the targeted businessman, followed by a couple of blank firings, ostensibly to convey the message.
Roy said the gang was formed by Raju Bhandari in March this year. Bhandari works as a manpower contractor in Ahmedabad and rest work as labourers or cooks.
Bhandari had formed the gang on the instruction of Rajendra Thapa, Pujari's pointman in Mumbai, who was killed in an encounter on Saturday.
"Thapa would provide weapons to Bhandari and his men after selecting the target. Once the supari (money) is given, Bhandari and his men would come to Mumbai, execute the firing and leave for Ahmedabad," Roy said adding that each member were paid Rs. 20,000 for every firing.
A joint team from the AEC and the Property Cell of the crime branch, which was had been specially formed to keep watch on the movement of the gang, were tipped off about their presence in Mumbai. Before they could take a train to Ahmedabad from the Mumbai Central railway station, the police nabbed them. They have all been remanded to police custody till September 18 by a magistrate's court.
Roy said the police are planning to evoke the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against them. "For the time being, we have been able to curb the menace of one important module of the Pujari gang," said additional commissioner of police, crime, Deven Bharati adding that CCTV grabs from Notandas jewellers establishes their involvement in the crime.
A factory-made pistol with five live rounds and four mobile phones with an equal number of SIM cards have been seized.