Bhagna at the city SP’s office after his arrest from near Golmuri on Tuesday. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
The arrest of a key member of an interstate gang from Jamshedpur on Tuesday not just nipped in the bud an abduction attempt on a city businessman, but exposed how crime syndicates still operate from inside Jharkhand’s many porous prisons and how movie-like honey traps are also a thrilling reality.
Santosh Rai (38), alias Bhagna, a native of Bihar’s Siwan district but currently staying in Azadnagar, Mango, was nabbed from near Golmuri early in the morning when he was on his way to meet other accomplices following instructions from mastermind Mohammed Sajid (35) who is at present lodged at Ghaghidih Central Jail.
A loaded pistol and a spare .315 cartridge were found on Bhagna who has police records in Calcutta and Bhubaneswar.
City SP Karthik S. said they received a tip-off on the gang’s plan to kidnap a city businessman and demand hefty ransom for his freedom.
“On the basis of the information that members of the gang would have a rendezvous near Golmuri, a special team was formed. Bhagna was caught at Cable Town along with his firearm,” the officer said, adding that search was on for his aides, including a woman who was to be used as bait.
During interrogation, Bhagna told police that Sajjad had hatched the kidnap plot.
“Bhagna and another of Sajjad’s men, Chowda Raju, were to execute the operation along with two hired hands and the bait. The escape car and the woman had been arranged, but we foiled the plan by arrested Bhagna while he was on his way to meet Raju and the hired goons,” the city SP said.
He added that the original meeting place was Bistupur and not as the informer had said, and hence, police could not nab the others.
Karthik further said that Bhagna did not know who the target was. “He just knew they had to kidnap a businessman and earn Rs 5 crore. Sajjad would have told them the name and whereabouts of the target just before the operation.”
Satyendra Chaudhury, the jailer of the central prison, denied rampant use of mobile phones by inmates. “There are several ways to communicate. Maybe, Sajjad sent messages to his gang through visitors,” he said.
Although Chaudhury conceded that raids had yielded cellphones, he stressed that they conducted routine inspections and there was little scope the gangster had communicated electronically with the outside world.
The SP said Bhagna was Sajjad’s right hand and had been chargesheeted for twin abductions in Calcutta (2004 and 2006). He had raked in ransoms of Rs 4 lakh and 5 lakh from the two businessmen for his gang. He also played a key role in the kidnap and murder of a Bhubaneswar-based iron ore trader in 2007.
“Bhagna, who stayed in Calcutta at that time, abducted Ranjan Kumar and his driver. The gang received Rs 1.1 crore as ransom but still killed the two. The bodies were found along NH-33. Three others — Tasleem, Arshad and Amit — were also involved in the case and were arrested by Bhubaneswar police,” he added.
The gangster will be produced in court on Wednesday.