A top former aide of underworld don Chhota Rajan, Prakash Narayan Pandey alias Bunty Pande, 40, who was detained in the Vietnamese capital, Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday on an Interpol Red Corner Notice, was brought to Mumbai early on Thursday.
Bunty, originally from Nainital in Uttaranchal, shot to notoriety after he allegedly led a hit team that gunned down the managing director of East-West Airways, Takiuddin Wahid, in Khar in 1995.
Mumbai police commissioner Sanjeev Dayal said Pandey, wanted in connection with 34 serious offences in Mumbai and Uttaranchal, was brought from Vietnam to New Delhi from where he was flown to the city by a crime branch team.
He has been arrested in an extortion case of 2009, and remanded in police custody till November 12.
Dayal said Bunty was living in Cambodia “for some years” on an Indian passport issued to him by the Indian embassy in Phnom Penh under the assumed name of Vijay Subhash Sharma.
Sources in the Mumbai police, meanwhile, said the regional passport office in Mumbai had originally issued the passport. The Indian embassy had just added more pages to the booklet owing to multiple visa entries.
Dayal said the crime branch was tipped off about Bunty’s presence in Cambodia through its sources. Meanwhile, joint commissioner of police, Himanshu Roy said Bunty became a fugitive in 1999 after he sneaked out of the country to evade arrest. He hopped around half-a-dozen countries in South East Asia and Nepal, while maintaining his extortion business from Mumbai and Nainital.
He finally landed in Bangkok and joined his mentor Chhota Rajan there. However, following the attack on Rajan in Bangkok in 2002, in which top Rajan aide Rohit Verma was killed, Bunty parted company with Rajan and floated his own gang.
Bunty used to shuttle between Cambodia and Vietnam and continued his stay in both countries on business and tourist visas. He had been in Vietnam since 2009 and worked there as a labour contractor.
Claiming Bunty’s arrest as being a major success of the Indian police in its endeavour to bring fugitive gangsters to justice, Roy said that through Bunty’s interrogation, the police would obtain the modus operandi of other fugitives.
Born on December 25, 1970, Bunty is the son of a retired Subeidar with the Indian Army. He dropped out of school in Class 8, ran away from home and joined the notorious liquor mafia of eastern UP. He later joined the Chhota Rajan gang when he was on the run from the UP police and holed up in Mumbai.
Bunty’s wife and daughter live in a town 100 km from Ho Chi Minh City, though crime branch sources said Bunty was living in the capital with a Vietnamese woman who helped him liaison with local businessmen.
His Mumbai operations received a severe setback in 2008 when the Mumbai police crime branch gunned down seven of his sharpshooters in one year. He unsuccessfully tried to revive his operations by making ceaseless ransom demands on front-line film personalities and realtors, but lack of manpower severely crippled his Mumbai operations