The Preity Zinta-Ness Wadia feud has taken a new turn with the underworld muscling its way into the ongoing controversy.
Notorious gangster Ravi Pujari, who is holed up at a secret location abroad, has allegedly threatened Ness' father and noted industrialist Nusli Wadia asking him to stay clear of the Zinta-Ness "matter". Pujari reportedly said Wadia Sr would do well to listen to him if he wanted to keep his business "healthy". The threats were issued over telephone and through a text message. Zinta had, last Friday, complained to the Marine Drive police accusing Ness of abusing and insulting her in public on May 30 at an IPL match at Wankhede stadium.
Commissioner Rakesh Maria on Wednesday said: "We have received a complaint from Wadia's office saying two employees received calls... The caller claimed to be Ravi Pujari and we are in the process of registering a case. Investigations have been transferred to the Anti-Extortion Cell."
Five calls were made and one text message sent out. "The caller identified himself as Ravi Pujari," Maria said. The call was traced to Iran. The crime branch will soon call the two employees to listen to the voice recording to identify if it was indeed Pujari who threatened them.
On June 16, an assistant of Nusli Wadia's secretary received a phone call at the office landline of the Wadia Group's office on Pandurang Budhkar Marg in Worli from an unknown international number, Vinayak Deshmukh, DCP, Zone III, said. "The caller, asked for Nusli Wadia's secretary, but since she was not available, the caller hung up saying saying he is calling from Australia. In this call, no threat was issued."
The same day, the caller phoned the secretary, a woman, from the Wadia Group, who stays in the Byculla area, on her mobile phone several times from international numbers. But due to network problem the call was not clear. Around 8pm, the secretary, whose name has not been revealed by the police, received a text message from an unknown international number. The text message (in English) read: "Don't get involved in Preity Zinta's matter... it will affect your business."
"Zinta's name was mentioned in the text message. The message also had the name of Ravi Pujari," Mumbai police spokesperson DCP Mahesh Patil said. The police are baffled how Pujari got the secretary's mobile phone number.
"The secretary who received the text message gave a written complaint at the NM Joshi Marg police station on June 17. The local police and the Anti-Extortion Cell of crime branch are inquiring into the matter," Patil said.
Incidentally, 25 years ago the police had exposed a plot to kill Nusli Wadia. Prime accused Arjun Babaria passed away last year. The trial is still on. The CBI investigated the matter.
DCP Patil said the caller neither demanded any money nor issued any threat to life in the call or message. "The caller just warned Wadia asking him to stay away from Zinta's matter. If required, we would record Zinta's statement," Patil said.