New Delhi: Underworld don Chhota Rajan was brought here early today from the Indonesian tourist city of Bali by a joint team headed by CBI officials to face trial in over 70 cases of murder, extortion and drug smuggling in Delhi and Mumbai. Deported after being on the run for 27 years, the 55-year-old gangster, whose real name is Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, landed at Palam airport along with seven-member team which included officials from Delhi Police’s elite Special Cell and Mumbai police’s Crime Branch in an IAF’s Gulfstream-III aircraft.
He was taken straight to the CBI headquarters where he was subjected to a preliminary round of questioning. Due to security concerns, Rajan, who has reportedly tipped Indian security agencies about the movement of Dawood Ibrahim and his aides, is unlikely to be taken to a Delhi court and instead a magistrate will be brought to the CBI headquarters for his remand.
After his arrest in Bali on October 25, India had pressed for his early deportation, which, however, got delayed due to closure of Bali’s international airport due to spewing of volcanic ash from a nearby mountain.
Upon his arrival here, he was taken into preventive custody of Interpol division of the CBI till the central probe agency completes legal formalities for registering a case of allegedly procuring fake passport and takes over the 70 cases handed over by Maharashtra government.
Official cars with flashing lights accompanied by heavy- armed escort vans were seen leaving the Palam Technical Area at around 5:30 AM, as anxious camera persons and photographers made unsuccessful attempts to get a glimpse of the underworld don, who was believed to be in one of those vehicles with tinted glasses.
There was high drama as the CBI anticipating a large media presence first used two convoys, one being a decoy, to ward them off. As the camera persons started following these two convoys, a third carcade moved out of the airport from another gate and entered the CBI headquarters, away from the media glare.
In a brief statement, CBI spokesperson said that Rajan has been successfully brought to India from Indonesia. “He is in custody of CBI-Interpol. Legal formalities are in progress.”
The spokesperson said he was medically fit and required no dialysis. This statement comes after Maharashtra government had made arrangements for dialysis following reports that his kidneys were not functioning properly. 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 only to Mumbai.
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. 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. Rajan was arrested on the basis of an Interpol Red Corner notice at Bali airport on October 25 on his arrival from Australia.
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 of murder, four cases under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, one 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 underworld don 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.