Prominent Kannada journalist and editor of Hi Bangalore, Ravi Belagere was arrested from his Bengaluru residence on Friday by Central Crime Branch sleuths.
The CCB sleuths, who arrived at Belagere’s Padmanabha Nagar residence on Friday afternoon, arrested him on allegations of hiring a contract killer to murder a fellow journalist.
According to a senior police official with the CCB, Ravi Belagere has been accused of contracting the killing of his former colleague and journalist – Sunil Heggaravalli.
“A few days ago, two men – Tahir Hussain and Shashidhar were arrested for illegal possession of arms. They had revealed that they were hired to kill a journalist. Upon investigating their claim, it pointed to Ravi Belagere. The suspicion is that he contracted the killing of journalist Sunil but the murder did not happen as the two men were arrested,” the senior police officer said.
CCB sources said that Shashidhar is a contract killer from Bijapur district. “Bijapur is known for illegal gun running. Upon receiving information, the clues pointed to Belagere. He is being questioned now. We have also received information about seven other contract killings. These are different cases and the concerned jurisdictional police stations have been informed about it. This has nothing to do with the Gauri Lankesh murder,” the senior official added.
On Sunday, Tahir Hussain alias Anup Gowda was arrested by the CCB sleuths while he was trying to sell an illegal country-made pistol. Up on questioning Tahir Hussain, the police learned that another man named Shashidhar Ramachandra Mundewadi had taken a weapon from him with two live bullets.
On Thursday, officers with the CCB apprehended Shashidhar at 11.15 pm. During his interrogation, Shashidhar allegedly confessed that he was hired by Belagere to murder Sunil.
“On August 28, Shashidhar and his associate Viju Badiger had met Ravi Belagere. Belagere then handed over one gun, four live bullets and a knife and asked them to kill Sunil. Belagere allegedly paid Rs 15,000 in advance for the killing,” a CCB official said.
An employee with Belagere’s Hi bangalore allegedly showed the two hitmen to Sunil’s residence in Uttarahalli. However, the hitmen could not kill Sunil as he had returned home earlier than expected. Police sources say that Shashidhar and Viju promised Ravi belagere tha they would murder Sunil after a month.
Shashidhar is the accused in three other murder cases, in 2006, 2013 and 2014. In 2017, in September he got arrested in Maharashrat’s Miraj area under the arms act. He was out on bail when he Shashidhar contacted Tahir Hussain, who is a gun runner in Bijapur’s Indi taluk, the police said.
A team of 21 police officers including one ACP and five Inspectors searched Ravi Belagere's home and found a revolver and 53 bullets, where one was used. The cops also found a double barrel gun and 41 bullets, deer skin and 1.5x1.5 ft tortoise shell. "All these items were seized from his house," the police officer said.
DCP West, MN Anuchet, who is a part of the SIT probing Gauri Lankesh’s murder refuted media reports that suspects arrested in Gauri’s murder had revealed the information about Belagere.
“This is a separate case probed by CCB and not SIT. The information about Ravi Belagere was revealed to the CCB in a different case. We (SIT) are nowhere in the picture,” DCP Anuchet told TNM.
Speaking to the media, journalist Sunil said that he never suspected his “trusted friend to have hatched such a plan”.
“Two years ago, Ravi Belagere and I had some differences and I quit Hi Bangalore. When Gauri Lankesh was killed he contacted me and in fact asked me to head the tabloid’s editorial. I assumed that he was trying to patch up things between us. We have been friends for 14 years and I never knew that a trusted friend like him would do something like this,” Sunil said.
Sunil also said that he had received anonymous couriers and was asked to attend a meeting where no one was present.
“A few suspicious activities have taken place. Like this one instance when he called me to the office for a meeting but he did not show up and no one else was at the office. When the CCB investigators told me that he was suspected of hiring hit men to kill me, I was shocked. That’s when these suspicious instances made sense. The police also told me that some suspicious people were also conducting a recce of the area where I live,” Sunil added.