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Nabha jailbreak accused held in Hong Kong, Punjab seeks extradition

Romi, against whom Interpol issued a red corner notice on a request by the state police (through the Central Bureau of Investigation), had fled India after he got bail in a debit card fraud case in 2016, months before the jailbreak

punjab Updated: Feb 23, 2018 23:50 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Patiala
Nabha jailbreak,Khalistan,Hong Kong
Ramanjit Singh Romi, a wanted gangster and alleged conspirator of the 2016 Nabha jailbreak. (Photo: Punjab police file)

Punjab police have moved an application to the Union ministry of external affairs to take up extradition of Ramanjit Singh, alias Romi, a wanted gangster and alleged conspirator of the 2016 Nabha jailbreak, who was on Thursday detained in a robbery case in Hong Kong.

Romi, against whom Interpol issued a red corner notice on a request by the state police (through the Central Bureau of Investigation), fled India after he got bail in a debit card fraud case in 2016.He later that year allegedly coordinated and financed the jailbreak in which six men escaped. Owing to an extradition treaty since 1999, police in Punjab got to know that he was detained in connection with a robbery in Kowloon (Hong Kong). Police in Hong Kong found out about the notice upon verification of record, and channelled the information to authorities in India.

“After intimation by Interpol, we have written to the ministry to take up his extradition,” said Gurmeet Singh Chauhan, assistant inspector general, organised crime control unit, Punjab police, on Friday, adding, “Documentation has been supplied through email; original copies will be sent very shortly.”

Romi has been declared proclaimed offender in two cases.

A state spokesperson said that after fleeing to Hong Kong, Romi had “managed to build an empire for himself” and was “continuing his nefarious terror activities and drug smuggling” from there. “He masterminded the Nabha jailbreak while he was lodged there in June 2016 and, after his release on bail a month later, had fled to Hong Kong, from where he had facilitated the daring escape with the help of gangster Gurpreet Singh Sekhon who was still lodged at Nabha. Besides providing money, Romi assured the escapees [of] safe houses and had given his Hong Kong contact number for providing logistical support,” said the press release by the state government.

“His name was also closely associated with Harjinder Singh alias Vicky Gounder (one of the escapees), who was recently shot dead. In fact, he is trying to rope in all gangsters to form a bigger gang in India,” claimed an investigator who did not want to be named.

‘Linked with target killings’

The press release further pointedly said Romi’s name “figured prominently” in the “terror module” that was responsible for seven “hate killings” in the state. Romi was allegedly in touch with UK national Jagtar Singh Johal alias Jaggi, since-arrested for being “one of the key conspirators” in the targeted killings of right wing leaders such as Brig Jagdish Gagneja (retd), vice-president of Punjab RSS Unit, in 2016. “The two were in touch through Harmeet Singh alias PHD, a known KLF (Khalistan Liberation Force) terrorist based in Pakistan, and had spoken to each other at least thrice between May and July 2017,” read the press note.

Romi was the “communication hub” and link between Punjab’s gangsters and Pakistan-based terrorists, and coordinating their activities through WhatsApp, VoIP platforms and social media, said the government press release.

“Romi had told Jaggi that Dharmender Singh alias Gugni, a gangster lodged in the Nabha jail, had arranged weapons for Ramandeep Rathore, one of the two motorcycle-borne hitmen in the target killing case,” said the release, adding, “Romi was also acting as mediator to strike a deal between Gugni and Gounder, who were at loggerheads because of inter-gang rivalries.”

Besides the jailbreak and the target killings, Romi is wanted for illegal transfer of funds for criminal and terror activities, abetting and facilitating terrorists, kidnapping, and smuggling of weapons. He is also suspected to be a major conduit for drug smuggling through his Pak-based contacts.

Case progress: Nabha jailbreak

Nov 27, 2016: Khalistan Liberation Force (KCF) chief Harminder Singh Mintoo, another militant Kashmir Singh, and gangsters Vicky Gounder, Gurpreet Singh Sekhon, Neeta Deol and Amandeep Dhotian escape after armed men storm Nabha jail in Patiala district

Nov 28, 2016: Mintoo rearrested from New Delhi

Jan 12, 2017: Neeta Deol held from Indore

Feb 12, 2017: Gurpreet Sekhon held from Moga

Jan 26, 2018: Vicky Gounder killed in encounter in Rajasthan near state border

Feb 23: Another alleged conspirator Gurpreet Singh Gopi held by Punjab police in Amritsar

Kashmir Singh of Khanna near Ludhiana is still on the run; he allegedly murdered a Shiv Sena leader in Gurdaspur in 2016

Harry Chatha and Gopi Ghanshampuria among other key men still wanted; so far, 27 arrests made

First Published: Feb 23, 2018 21:49 IST