Mumbai Crime: 2 held for demanding hafta from hotel owner

Three men went into a Khar hotel and threatened to kill the owner if he didn’t pay them; main accused still on the run

Two people have been arrested for allegedly trying to extort money from a hotelier in Khar. The Khar police are still searching for the mastermind, identified as Ajay Pandit, for whom the two men work. Pandit was involved in the shooting of a gangster in a Khar bar in 2013 and police said there are several cases against him, including murder.

The main accused, Pandit, who is at large
The main accused, Pandit, who is at large

Senior Police Inspector Dattatray Bargude said, “We have arrested Sagar Gupta, (19), and Hemant Kamble, (28) in the extortion case. While the main accused, Pandit, is still at large; he will be arrested soon. The two tried to extort money from a hotel owner, and they possessed arms.” Gupta is a college student while Kamble is a driver. Both are residents of Khar (West).

The case
On February 11, police said, the three accused went to Sameer Mandal, (32) owner of Varanasi hotel near Khar railway station. The accused had earlier asked for protection money (hafta) from Mandal, which he had refused to pay. Pandit then confronted him with Gupta and Kamble in tow.

He allegedly pointed a gun at him and showed him a bag containing around 30 live bullets, and said, “Agar paisa nahi diya to ye saari ki saari abhi tere andar daal dunga” (If you don’t pay, I will make sure all these get inside you).

Mandal then approached the Khar police station, where an FIR was registered. On February 20 Gupta and Kamble were arrested near Khar railway station. The next day they were produced in court and remanded in police custody.

The main accused
Pandit is one of the accused in the infamous 2013 shootout in a bar in Khar. Pandit, along with the main accused Rahul Sharma, Magic, Viren Thakur, Subhash Shukla, and another unidentified accused killed gangster Vijay Pujari alias Batta (see box) in Sharada Bar in Khar. (‘Shootout at Khar, gangster shot, stabbed to death inside bar’, August 2, 2013).

Pandit is still allegedly extorting money from posh hotels and eateries from Bandra to Santacruz. The police are shocked that Pandit, whom they were looking for, is active in the locality. Police Inspector Sukhlal Varpe said, “Pandit will be arrested soon.”

Who was Batta?
Vijay Pujari, alias Batta, formed his ‘Batta Gang’ operating in Khar. Everyone from builders to garment traders in the area feared him. He would spare nobody and extorted huge amounts from everybody. Even gangsters of old times are said to have feared him. Batta used to work as a manager in a Germany-based cargo company. He is survived by his wife and three children.

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