The Mumbai Police is going to launch an all-out effort to nab elusive gangster Ravi Pujari. By targeting noted industrialist Nusli Wadia, who is known to be close to several leaders in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Pujari has invited big trouble.
In the past, he had targeted filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and lawyer and now NCP MP Majid Memon, among others, in 2005-06. At that time the threats were not perceived to be serious enough to warrant an offensive. But, by threatening Wadia Pujari appears to have challenged India Inc. "Our response will be strong. We will trace him in whichever part of the world he is and bring him to book," a senior police officer told dna. The help of Interpol will be sought to track him down.
Pujari, a fast-talking school dropout from Andheri, was with don Chhota Rajan in the '80s and '90s. He learnt the tricks of the trade from Rajan, who is also based in an unknown destination abroad. After the abortive bid on Rajan's life in Bangkok in 2000 by the Dawood Ibrahim gang, Pujari moved away from Rajan and set up his own gang.
Like his former boss, Pujari is known to change his base from one country to another and, on occasions, is believed to have even briefly slinked into India. Pujari, in his earlier telephonic conversations with this journalist, has often projected himself as a patriotic don out to destroy super don Dawood Ibrahim, who is based in Pakistan.
An expert in extortion, he has successfully targeted several successful hoteliers of Mumbai and Bengaluru belonging to the Shetty community. The Pujaris and Shettys belong to different castes. Earlier, the underworld had several members of the Shetty community — Sharad Shetty, Muthappa Rai, Santosh Shetty and Vinod Shetty — dominating it. But, with most of the Shetty gangsters either dead or in custody, Ravi Pujari is emerging to occupy the space vacated by them.
Pujari has also used not-so-subtle methods to knock out money from his targets. About four years ago, he called up a Khar-based builder and demanded a huge sum. When the builder refused to pay, Pujari sent a huge bouquet of flowers to the builder's daughter on her wedding day. The message on the card stapled to the bouquet warned that the bridegroom would be killed if the money was not given!
Pujari operates with small teams based in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Mangalore, his hometown. His USP is his ability to collect intelligence about the business activities of builders, film personalities, diamond merchants and other businessmen. He has a number of `khabris', or informers, who feed him information in real time about big transactions.
"Often, the information flows from rival businessmen. For example, he received information about a big builder from another builder. Both were members of Khar Gymkhana and the information was picked up from there," a former crime branch officer said.
Tracking Pujari's location on the basis of the calls made by him may be difficult because he is known to use SIM cards under fake names in several countries. The three numbers from which he had called this correspondent in the past — +59158997535, +441617506580 and 442031011696 — were not reachable on Wednesday.