One of India’s most notorious gangsters, Chhota Rajan, was arrested on the Indonesian resort island of Bali after being on the run for two decades and will be sent back this week, officials said on Monday.
A joint Central Bureau of Investigation and Mumbai Police team is likely to fly soon to Bali to bring back Rajan -- mob boss Dawood Ibrahim’s former associate – who was travelling under the name Mohan Kumar.
He was arrested from Bali airport based on an Interpol red corner notice and a tip-off from authorities in Australia, where he reportedly spent the last six years.
“It is official. We have captured Chhota Rajan. Once identification and verification is done, appropriate action will be taken,” home minister Rajnath Singh told reporters, thanking Interpol and Indonesian authorities for their assistance.
Senior police officials said the arrest may not help in catching Dawood but could be instrumental in cracking a spate of unsolved murder and extortion cases, including the high-profile killing of journalist Jyotirmoy Dey in 2011.
Former Mumbai police commissioner M N Singh said Rajan, also known as Nana, may have orchestrated the arrest due to his ill health but other officials believed the gangster wanted to come back to take control of the underworld.
“At the request of CBI (Interpol wing) India, Bali Police arrested an Indian national Mohan Kumar on October 25. Kumar alias Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje alias Chhota Rajan is a fugitive,” said CBI director Anil Sinha, capping hours of confusion over the identity of the person arrested.
India and Indonesia signed an extradition treaty in 2011 but Jakarta hasn’t ratified it so far. In August, the two countries signed a pact for the deportation of wanted criminals on court warrant – an agreement that may come in handy.
“We don’t need a formal extradition treaty. There are other arrangements.... and it has happened before,” said Anil Wadhwa, secretary (east) in the external affairs ministry.
Sources said Rajan came under the Australian police’s radar four months back. “But despite identifying Rajan, Australian authorities didn’t want any mess on their land as rival Dawood’s hitmen were looking for him. They wanted to avoid any India-Pakistan situation in Australia,” said a security official.
“It seems they allowed him to leave Australia and then informed Indonesian authorities.” Rajan reached Bali two weeks ago but was picked up after his identification was thoroughly verified, sources added.
Hours after the arrest, the Maharashtra government said it will write to the Centre and demand Rajan’s custody for further investigation in at least 68 cases – 28 of which are related to extortion.
The 55-year-old Rajan began his career in crime as a petty thief and bootlegger under the wings of Rajan Nair -- known as ‘Bada Rajan’ – but slowly expanded his crime syndicate, committing at least 20 murders.
He publicly fell out with Dawood after the 1993 Mumbai blasts that killed 257 people, and declared himself a “patriotic don”, murdering key associates Sunil Sawant and Sharad Shetty in the UAE, and Mirza Dilshad Beg in Kathmandu, besides killing some blasts accused.
The aftermath of the blasts saw a bloodbath on Mumbai’s streets as both gangs clashed, often in public shootouts, and members of rival gangs or businessmen were hunted down. Dawood’s men have been looking for Rajan ever since.
Rajan narrowly escaped a daring attempt to his life in September 2000, when Dawood’s henchman Chhota Shakeel sent sharpshooters to kill him at a hotel room in Bangkok.
(With inputs from HTC, Mumbai)