The Karnataka and Maharashtra Police have run into more hurdles in the extradition of underworld don Ravi Pujari, who was detained in Senegal in January this year.
According to police sources, on May 15, ahead of Pujari’s extradition hearing, a Senegalese man allegedly filed a complaint with the local police that Ravi Pujari alias Anthony Fernandez had cheated him of millions of dollars.
“We suspect that Ravi Pujari has got one of his associates to file a false complaint. If a citizen of Senegal files a complaint against Ravi Pujari, then he cannot be extradited until the case reaches its logical end,” the police source said.
On January 19, the Senegal Interior Minister and its Director of Judicial Police arrested Ravi from a barber shop in Dakar, Senegal after they were tipped off by the Karnataka and Maharashtra police. Karnataka Additional General of Police (ADGP) for Intelligence Amar Kumar Pandey kept track of Ravi since June 2018 in Burkina Faso and later in Senegal, when he moved with wife and children and was operating a restaurant chain in partnership with locals.
However, Ravi Pujari has not made it easy for the authorities in India to extradite him. Soon after his arrest, Ravi Pujari, who had obtained fake identity documents as a Burkino Faso citizen, proclaimed that he is Anthony Fernandez.
By denying his identity, Ravi Pujari obtained relief from extradition for three months. However, the Indian authorities submitted his fingerprint and DNA samples to the Sengal court, which proved he was indeed Ravi Pujari.
However, Ravi Pujari’s extradition hearing began on May 15. “We received information that the complaint was filed when the extradition hearing began in the Senegal court. But we are working on proving that this false complaint against him is a diversion tactic,” the police added.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had sent police dossiers translated to French to the Senegal authorities, which is being processed by the Justice Department.
Police say that the MEA is trying to persuade Senegal to extradite Pujari under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. “The Indian government must agree to not sentence Pujari to death once he is extradited. We will extradite him soon. It may take a few more weeks,” the source added.
Pujari’s lawyers have argued in court that he is Anthony Fernandez from Burkina Faso as mentioned in his passport and not a fugitive. Karnataka police say that they picked up Pujari’s trail in 2018 in Burkina Faso, where he had partnered with a few Indian men to run a restaurant chain called Namaste India. The police found that Pujari had obtained another identity. Police say that Pujari had a built a good reputation for himself as a businessman and philanthropist. The police found he was in Senegal after a local publication had featured him in an article.
In 1994, when Pujari was charged with murder of a builder, he was released on bail. However, he is believed to have fled to South Africa and then to Dubai, Australia and then went back to West Africa. The Maharashtra police had approached the Interpol to issue a red corner notice against him in 1994 when he had fled. The red corner was issued and it contained Pujari’s fingerprint, which was collected when he was in judicial custody in India.
Born in Malpe in coastal Karnataka, Ravi Pujari has been on the run for over two decades. He has been charged with several crimes including extortion (384), kidnapping for ransom (364), murder (302) and criminal intimidation (506) among other IPC sections. Currently, there are 98 criminal cases registered against Pujari in Karnataka, out of which 46 are registered in Bengaluru.