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Skylark kidnap kingpin in net

Dhanbad, Oct. 30: The main accused in the dramatic 2011 abduction of a coal town hotelier was arrested on a tip-off from Patna three days ago and produced in court here today.

The chief judicial magistrate has granted police three-day custody of Balendra Kumar Singh (47), a native of Aurangabad district of Bihar, for interrogation in the kidnap of executive director of Hotel Skylark Uday Shankar Chanda.

Chanda was released after about a month amid speculation that a ransom was paid by the family.

Officer-in-charge of Bank More police station S.S. Tiwari said they had started grilling Singh on names and whereabouts of his accomplices. Police sources said he was known to be as slippery as an eel and extra precautions were being taken to keep him in custody.

In the past, Singh had been awarded life sentence in another abduction case — of four-wheeler agency owner Kailash Bahati — in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. He had fled from a Rewa court during a hearing after serving only six years in jail.

Chanda (66), who had left Dhanbad for Calcutta to meet his son in his car on July 2 last year, was kidnapped near Govindpur, 20km from the coal capital. His last mobile location was found in Kulti, Bengal, prompting the local police to lodge a missing person’s diary.

Dhanbad police also lodged a similar diary at Bank More following a complaint from Skylark’s public relations manager on July 3. The diary was converted into an FIR on July 4 after which raids were conducted in several areas of Jharkhand (Dhanbad), Bihar (Nawada, Nalanda, Patna, Sheikhpura, Lakhisarai, Jamui and Banka) and Bengal (Barakar, Asansol, Raniganj and Calcutta), but in vain.

On July 31, Chanda and his driver Dilip Kumar Singh were both left blindfolded at Kiul station in Bihar. They were “rescued” by a team of Jharkhand police who remained tightlipped on how they knew that the hotelier had been freed.

According to sources, Chanda was released only after a ransom of Rs 25 lakh was paid. His family had, however, denied the claim.