Fugitive gangster Chhota Rajan extradited back to India after more than 20 years on the run
An alleged Indian gangster who spent more than 20 years on the run arrived in Delhi on Friday to face charges relating to dozens of crimes including murder, extortion and drug trafficking after he was arrested in Indonesia.
India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said Chhota Rajan, whose real name is Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, had been flown by Indian Air Force jet to Delhi after he was tracked down to the resort island of Bali and arrested last week.
Indonesian authorities had received a tip-off from Australian police, who confirmed in September that the 55-year-old had been living there under an assumed identity.
“Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje alias Chhota Rajan alias Mohan Kumar has been successfully brought back to India on deportation from Indonesia today morning,” the CBI said in a statement.
“He is in [the] custody of CBI-Interpol. Legal formalities are in process.”
Rajan was the alleged former right-hand man of Mumbai crime kingpin Dawood Ibrahim, who is suspected of masterminding the 1993 bomb blasts in the city that killed more than 250 people in retaliation for anti-Muslim violence a few months earlier.
He parted with Ibrahim after the attacks, becoming a rival to his former ally, and is accused of running one of several underworld outfits that had a grip on India’s financial and entertainment capital in the 1980s and 1990s until a police crackdown.
Rajan portrayed himself as a “Hindu don” and began targeting those he considered to be “anti-India”, including Ibrahim’s men.
He became a major thorn in the side of his former boss, who remains on the run, and is believed to have been behind an attempt on Rajan’s life in Bangkok in 2000.
Indian media said Rajan was likely to be formally arrested at the CBI headquarters rather than taken to court out of fears for his security.
In an orange prison jumpsuit, handcuffed Rajan told reporters in Bali that he faced death threats in India, alleging that some Mumbai police were ”working with Dawood”.
Interpol had flagged him as a wanted man back in 1995 and he was later accused of ordering the murder of a prominent Mumbai crime reporter who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting the same year.
Mumbai Police Deputy Commissioner Dhananjay Kulkarni, who was one of the officers on the flight that brought Rajan back from Indonesia, said the force had 78 cases registered against Rajan.
Interpol’s website said Rajan was wanted on multiple charges including murder and possession and use of illegal firearms.
Before his extradition to India, Rajan told reporters in Bali that “all cases against me are false”.
His deportation, due earlier this week, was delayed after a volcanic eruption on a nearby Indonesian island forced authorities to ground all flights from Bali for two days.
The arrest and deportation of Rajan, until recently one of India’s most wanted men, has gripped the Indian media.
Many have speculated it could help lead authorities to Ibrahim, who is believed to be hiding in Pakistan.
Ibrahim, the son of a police constable who ran an empire steeped in drug trafficking, extortion and ransom killings for more than two decades, has been on the run since 1993.
He remains India’s most wanted man and was branded “global terrorist” by the United States in 2003.