Mumbai cops thwart underworld attack on city journalist

The Mumbai Crime Branch arrests three members of Ravi Pujari’s gang, who hatched a plan to kill a leading English daily’s journalist after he referred to the gangster as ‘chindi chor’ (small fry) in his news report

Over a span of two days, the Mumbai Crime branch arrested three members of the Ravi Pujari gang who were given a supari by the gangster to kill a journalist of a leading English daily. Cops stumbled upon Pujari’s plan while tapping his phone. They observed that in the recent past, the gangster had made the maximum number of calls to a certain number in Nalasapora.

Ravi Pujari
The cops stumbled upon Ravi Pujari’s (left) plan after tapping his phone. They subsequently recovered a country-made pistol, five cartridges and 11 SIM cards from the men Pujari had hired to kill the scribe. File Pic

Following this, a property cells team comprising police inspector Nandkumar Gopale, assistant police inspector Nitin Patil, Dilip Phulpagare and Ravi Salunkhe found that the number belonged to Madanchand Govind Sonkar alias Raju Francis, 27.

They picked up Sonkar on Friday. After interrogating him, they learnt that Pujari had paid him R1.25 lakh to distribute it to two other men, Ashutosh Verma, 22, and Rambahadur Chavan, 27, both residents of Nalasapora, to kill the journalist. The cops later picked up Verma and Chavan from Marine Drive on Saturday afternoon.

“We recovered a country-made pistol, five cartridges and 11 SIM cards from them,” Sadanand Date, joint commissioner of police, crime branch said. They had also hired a four-wheeler to track his movements. Cops also recovered the scribe’s photograph and a map of his Nariman Point office. The trio was produced in the Esplanade court and has been remanded
to police custody till September 11.

According to sources, Chavan worked as a driver for leading Bollywood stars and passed on information to Pujari. The gangster was also planning to eliminate a journalist of a leading Hindi daily. 

The murder conspiracy
In the wake of the Ness Wadia-Preity Zinta case, the scribe had mentioned in his news report on July 14 that Pujari had threatened industrialist Nusli Wadia to gain  publicity. He had also addressed Pujari as Chindi chor (small fry) who would call people to cough up lakhs of rupees but finally settle for a few thousands. A property cell officer said, “This remark angered Pujari and he decided to kill the reporter.”

Cops said that following the attack on producer Karim Morani and threats to actors Shah Rukh Khan and Boman Irani from Pujari, security had been beefed up for all the actors. The journalist has also been given protection at his residence and office since Friday. In 2011, gangster Chhota Rajan had targeted Mid-day journalist J Dey and murdered him in Powai.

Rs 1.25 lakh
The amount Ravi Pujari paid the three men as supari to bump off the journalist

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