Deported underworld fugitive Bunty Pande's extortion channels in Mumbai had dried up for the past one-and-a-half year.
Things were so bad for the Chhota Rajan hit man that he had to plead for Rs 50,000 from a businessman he was trying to extort money from.
According to sources in the Crime Branch, Pande had made ransom calls to a developer in the western suburbs in 2008. Initially, sources said, Pande had demanded Rs 5 crore from the developer by bragging about his past exploits, including the firing at the Shiv Sagar restaurant earlier in the year.
However, when the businessman started to bargain, the ransom was brought down to Rs 5 lakh. Meanwhile, the developer complained to the Crime Branch and was provided police protection.
The Crime Branch kept his phone under observation. In the last conversation Pande had with the developer, the former was heard almost begging for Rs 50,000. However, the builder, now under police protection, refused to pay his extortionist a single rupee. The calls stopped coming.
Sources said Pande was once one of the most feared extortionists in Mumbai's underworld circles and had given several businessman sleepless nights.
However, his operations were crippled after the Crime Branch killed eight of his front-line shooters — including his trusted point man Feroze — in a spate of operations in 2008.
Most of the police operations against the gang were undertaken following the firing at Shiv Sagar restaurant in Churchgate.
Pande had threatened the owner of the restaurant, Narayan Pujari, for ransom. When he refused to pay, two of Pande's shooters had opened fire on the restaurant, killing the watchman.
In the same year, six of the remaining foot soldiers of Pande were rounded up by the Crime Branch and booked under the MCOCA, thus winding up the total gang in the city.
“Pande's (or his gang's) activities have remained almost neutral since the past one year,” said joint commissioner of police, crime Himanshu Roy. However, Pande made up for his lost territory in Mumbai by continuing his activities in his hometown, Nainital in Uttaranchal.
Pande was detained by the Vietnamese police on an Interpol warrant late last month and deported to India on November 4.