After being on the run for the past 27 years, underworld don Chhota Rajan was deported to India from Indonesia by a joint team headed by CBI officials for facing trial in over 70 cases of murder, extortion and drug smuggling against him in Delhi and Mumbai.
One of India’s most wanted criminals, the 55-year-old gangster, whose real name is Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, was whisked away soon after landing at the Palam Technical area in Delhi and taken to the barricaded CBI headquarters where a team of officials started questioning him.
There was high drama as the CBI, anticipating a large media presence, used a decoy car to ward them off.
Due to security concerns, Rajan is unlikely to be taken to a Delhi court and instead a magistrate will be brought to the CBI headquarters for his remand, agency sources said, adding that he will also be subjected to the mandatory medical check-up.
He is expected to the kept in the national capital where he will also be questioned by sleuths of various investigating agencies on his claims of having further evidence to nail India’s most wanted terrorist Dawood Ibrahim and his links with Pakistan’s ISI.
Rajan, who has reportedly tipped Indian security agencies about the movement of Dawood and his aides, was flown in an Indian Air Force Gulfstream-III aircraft from the Indonesian tourist town Bali.
Official cars with flashing lights accompanied by heavy-armed escort vans were seen leaving the Palam Technical Area around 5:30 am, as photographers made unsuccessful attempts to get a glimpse of the underworld don, who was in one of those vehicles with tinted glasses.
Rajan had told media in Bali that he was happy to return to India and had rubbished reports that his arrest was orchestrated as he was facing threat from Dawood’s men.
Ahead of his arrival in India, Maharashtra government made a surprise announcement of handing over all the cases related to the underworld don to the CBI as the agency had expertise in handling such cases. This move comes barely a few days after the state Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had been making claims that Rajan will be brought straight to Mumbai from Bali.
The Maharashtra government’s sudden U-turn raised many eyebrows within the police establishment in the megalopolis as the Chief Minister himself had ordered setting up of a special cell inside Arthur Road prison with arrangement for dialysis. Rajan is on dialysis as his both kidneys have been affected.
Rajan, after his arrest, had expressed reservation over plans to lodge him in a Mumbai jail, fearing that Dawood may target him there.
Rajan had told reporters in Bali that “some in the Mumbai police” have links with Dawood. “The Mumbai police has done a lot of ‘atyachar’ (atrocities) on me,” he had alleged.
Till the formalities of CBI to take over the Maharashtra cases are completed, Rajan will be in the custody of Special Cell of Delhi Police which has six cases registered against him.
Rajan was arrested on the basis of an Interpol Red Corner notice at Bali airport on October 25 on his arrival from Australia.
His deportation was deferred by a day as the international airport in Bali was shut down due to spewing of volcanic ash from a nearby mountain.
Immediately after his flight took off, Indian Ambassador to Indonesia Gurjit Singh tweeted: “#ChotaRajan deported successfully to India. Delay due to Bali airport closure ends. Thanks Indonesia for support.”
Rajan is wanted in over 75 crimes ranging from murder, extortion to smuggling and drug trafficking.
Mumbai Police has nearly 70 cases registered against Rajan, including 20 cases of murder, four cases under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, one case under Prevention of Terrorism Act and over 20 cases under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.
Delhi Police has six cases registered against Rajan, who was a close aide of fugitive gangster Dawood at one point but parted ways before the 1993 Mumbai blasts were conspired.
In 2000, there was an attempt on Rajan’s life when Dawood’s men tracked him down to a hotel in Bangkok but he managed a dramatic escape by jumping from the first floor of the hotel.
Rajan had fled India in 1988 for Dubai.