Calcutta, Jan. 27: Prabhu Shankar Agarwal, the owner of the Haldiram Prabhuji confectionery brand that grew out of a nondescript city shop, was today convicted of hiring goons in an attempt to kill a Burrabazar tea-stall owner who had refused to vacate a plot for him.
Four others, including hitman Gopal Tiwari and realtor Arun Khandelwal, were found guilty of criminal conspiracy and attempted murder at the end of a nearly five-year trial that revealed how Agarwal had tried to buy off tea-stall owner Satyanarayan Thakur with Rs 4 lakh before deciding to get him killed.
The additional sessions judge of fast-track court No. 4 at Bankshall, Tapan Sen, is scheduled to pronounce the punishment on Friday. Lawyers said Agarwal, in his late 50s, and his co-conspirators could face imprisonment ranging from 10 years to life term.
Thakur escaped the murder attempt when his would-be killers ó Tiwari and his henchmen Manoj Sharma, Raju Sonkar and Kulwant Singh ó mistook his nephew Pramod for the owner of the stall and shot at him twice. A bullet struck Pramods right thigh and the gang fled.
Khandelwal, a business associate of Agarwal, had provided the car in which the quartet went to Burrabazar and fled. Kulwant is absconding.
Additional sessions judge Sen said the evidence gathered by police against Agarwal and the other four was conclusive. This court has come to the conclusion that the five accused (Agarwal and others) had conspired to murder tea-stall owner Satyanarayan Thakur on March 30, 2005, he said.
Agarwal, whose Pure Food Haldiram outlet on VIP Road is a landmark, became a suspect after Tiwari was arrested in Hyderabad on May 24 that year. By the time investigators had gathered evidence to arrest the businessman, he was off to London. Agarwal was arrested at Delhi airport when he returned on June 7, 2005.
Agarwal, who had started off with a shop on Kalakar Street along with his now-estranged brothers, had asked Thakur to shift his tea stall that was blocking a vacant site where he was planning to construct a multi-storeyed building.