The Central Crime Branch team led by Joint Commissioner of Police Sandeep Patil on Sunday obtained custody of hitman and close associate of gangster Ravi Pujari – Yusuf Suleiman Kadri alias Yusuf Bachkana. Yusuf has been serving a life sentence at the Hindalga Central Jail in Belagavi district since 2004 after he was convicted in the murder of Karnataka-based builder Subba Rao.
Yusuf was brought to Bengaluru to gather evidence against him and Ravi Pujari in running extortion and murder cases.
Ravi Pujari, former associate of underworld don Chhota Rajan, was extradited from Senegal in West Africa and brought to Bengaluru on February 24 this year by the Karnataka police. Ever since his arrest, the Central Crime Branch has been questioning him in several cases related to extortion and the murder of two people in the Shabnam Developers case.
On February 15, 2007, two unidentified men barged into the Shabnam Developers office in Bengaluru’s Tilaknagar and shot dead receptionist Shylaja and another employee, Lohitashwa alias Ravi. The police filed a case against Pujari, stating that he had hired the hitmen to create fear among the owners of Shabnam Developers. The police also said that Pujari had been extorting money from the owners of the company since 2006.
Central Crime Branch sleuths suspect that Yusuf was Ravi Pujari’s primary recruiter at the time and may have been involved in planning and executing several murders and extortion rackets along with Ravi Pujari. Police say that within months of being lodged in jail in 2004, Yusuf had formed a network of at least 30 hitmen to carry out his orders. He also allegedly had access to various mobile phones while in the jail.
“He used to make calls and arrange hits or extortion bids in Ravi Pujari’s name. He was the chief recruiter but has not been convicted in numerous trials including the Mahesh Bhatt case due to lack of evidence,” crime branch officials told TNM. Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt had accused Ravi Pujari’s gang members of plotting to kill him and his family members.
A member of the Mumbai underworld in the 1990s, Yusuf Bachkana was once the right-hand man to dreaded gangster Chhota Rajan. As Chhota Rajan’s primary hitman, Yusuf is believed to have eliminated several members of Dawood Ibrahim’s gang in Mumbai. His skills as a sharpshooter had made him a feared personality.
Yusuf’s list of victims from Dawood Ibrahim’s gang includes Kaliya (murdered in 1998), Devi Prasad Hegde (in 1999), Ibrahim’s financiers Sohail Rizvi (in 1999) and Mutalik Patel (at Bandra railway station in 1999). In the 1990s, Ravi Pujari too was working with Chhota Rajan. However, Pujari and Rajan split in 2000.
At the time, Yusuf was still establishing loyalties with new dons. He had sided with Muttappa Rai in Bengaluru, but after a fallout he allegedly hatched a plan with Rai’s rival Bannanje Raja to kill Rai. However, the plan failed.
Later, Yusuf ended up siding with Pujari. He ran his first extortion racket in Karnataka after being involved in the murder of Subba Rao, owner of Mayura Builders and Developers, in 2001.
Even after he was arrested in 2004 and sent to the Hindalga Central Jail in Belagavi district, Yusuf is said to have run innumerable extortion rackets for Pujari. Police officials say that Yusuf scouted hitmen and killers for Pujari from inside the prison as well as when he came to courtrooms for various trials. In 2013, Yusuf is believed to have recruited men to extort money from noted filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, and in 2015 as well.
In 2013, Yusuf made an extortion call from Belagavi to Mumbai-based builder Rajaram Manjaokar. When Manjaokar refused to give in to his demands, Yusuf allegedly sent three men recruited from Karnataka to go to Mumbai and kill Manjaokar. Three shots were fired at Manjaokar’s car but the builder survived.
The same year, Yusuf allegedly made a deal with another gangster, Bettanagere Shankar, to kill the latter’s cousin, Bettanagere Seena, who was also lodged in Hindalga Central Jail. Seena and Shankar were arch-rivals and Shankar allegedly paid Yusuf Rs 10 lakh to kill Seena. The weapon, allegedly arranged by Yusuf via phone, was thrown inside the prison campus in a sweet box. However, one of Seena’s aides, another inmate in the prison, raised an alarm a few minutes before Yusuf’s men in jail could attack Seena, effectively stopping the attack. Seena was subsequently transferred to the prison in Kalaburagi.
“We believe Yusuf and Pujari were involved in several extortion rackets and murder cases. After interrogating Pujari, we needed to question Yusuf in order to procure evidence. That is why he was brought to Bengaluru,” the Crime Branch officer added.