After being sucked dry by gangster-turned-builder Ashwin Naik and his aides over a period of nearly seven years, a Dadar-based developer finally knocked on the doors of the law, cops said. As reported by MiD DAY yesterday (‘Ashwin Naik gets bail in 1 case, arrested in another’), Naik was picked up by the anti-extortion cell of crime branch on Wednesday after a complaint by Atul Yeshwant Potnis (38), a builder who develops chawls and old buildings in Mahim, Lalbaug, Dadar (W) areas. Potnis claimed he had been getting threat calls from Naik since 2005. A local court yesterday remanded the latter to police custody till June 14.
“Several times, Potnis paid the extortion money to Naik by cheques and also online. This is the first time such an occurrence has come to light,” said a crime branch officer. Police have learnt that Naik had extorted around Rs 3 crore from the SRA builder. Potnis had started construction with his partners Rameshwar Sambhari and Ajay Patil on a project in Lalbaug. That’s when three persons — Sandeep Dicholkar, Bhalerao and Kishore — approached his office and asked him to pay extortion money to Bhau (Naik) if he wanted to carry on with the venture.
“Dicholkar then obtained around Rs 60 lakh from Potnis and began demanding Rs 40 lakh more. After Potnis pleaded he was in a bit of financial strife and would not be able to cough up the aforementioned amount to Naik, an inexplicable firing incident took place at his office in Dadar,” said a police officer from crime branch.
A daunted Potnis then approached Dicholkar who took him to Atharwadi jail in Kalyan where Ashiwin Naik was then lodged. “Naik also threatened and abused Potnis and asked him to pay the remaining money. Potnis then delivered Rs 15 lakh to Naik’s house at NM Joshi Marg,” said the officer.
When Naik came out of jail, he again started calling Potnis up for money. When the accused demanded Rs 2 crore from Potnis the latter suffered a paralytic attack, but, afraid of Naik, did not report the matter to the police. The victim then learnt that his partners in business were tipping Naik off about his business transactions and drifted away from them. But Naik threatened him into staying with his partners. He also introduced a person named Gajendra Shinde and instructed Potnis to make him a business associate. This time the distraught victim suffered a heart attack.
“Potnis fled to Bangkok in May 2012, but Naik and his men went to the victim’s house and threatened his wife. After returning from Bangkok, Potnis took off to his native place at Kolhapur with his family in tow,” said the crime branch officer. After coming back to the city, Potnis recorded mobile communications between him and Naik, and also Naik’s secretary Kavita Narvekar, and then approached the crime branch with the evidence after which police arrested Naik. “My client and Potnis were partners. If Potnis was getting threat calls since 2005, why did he approach the police only now? All allegations against my client are false,” claimed SA Dubey, counsel to Naik.