Preity Zinta in Yorkshire in 2007. (Fotocorp)
Mumbai, June 18: A shadowy underworld figure known for phone threats to Bollywood bigwigs has added a new dimension to the Preity Zinta-Ness Wadia case.
Ness’s father Nusli Wadia has filed a complaint saying two of his aides received threat calls from a person claiming to be the fugitive gangster Ravi Pujari, preceded by a text message warning the industrialist not to “go after Preity”, Mumbai police chief Rakesh Maria said today.
The calls were received by two personal secretaries of the Wadia group patriarch on their cellphones on Monday — the day reports had swirled that Preity and ex-boyfriend Ness were exploring the possibility of a settlement. The actress and Kings XI Punjab co-owner has accused Ness of outraging her modesty during an IPL match in Mumbai last month.
A police source claimed five calls were received by the aides. The text message to them said: “Preity ke peechhey mat bhaag. Wadia ko mera message pahuncha de, nahi to uskey dhandey mein lafda hoyega (Don’t go after Preity, pass on my message to Wadia. Otherwise his business will be in trouble).”
Maria claimed the calls came from an Iran number and said Wadia had filed the complaint yesterday, a day after the alleged threats.
“The caller identified himself as Ravi Pujari and we are going to check with our voice samples to ascertain the identity of the accused. We are handing over the probe to the anti-extortion branch,” Maria said.
Pujari’s calls are often made from foreign numbers and he frequently changes his cell number, police sources said. “This makes it difficult for us to trace him,” a senior officer investigating Wadia’s complaint said.
Pujari is known to go beyond calls sometimes, having claimed responsibility earlier for two high profile attacks — the first on prominent Mumbai lawyer Majid Memon in 2005 and the second at the office of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt a year later.
Memon had escaped unhurt despite shots fired at him near his Bandra home by two gunmen on a bike.
In 2006, some unidentified men had barged into Mahesh’s office with a revolver, asked for him and brother Mukesh and left after firing a shot in the air, the police chargesheet said.
The Bhatts were not in the office then but, five minutes after the incident, Pujari had reportedly called Mahesh’s daughter Pooja taking responsibility for the attack. “I had never heard of him till then. I could not figure out if he was for real,” Pooja had told this reporter once.
Pujari, who police claim was once an assistant of don Chhota Rajan, has over the past year been blamed for threats to other film figures. The list includes Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Viveik Oberoi, Boney Kapoor, Sohail Khan and Karan Johar. No arrests have been made in the cases so far.
But Wadia may help crack the mystery where others have failed. The industrialist is an old friend of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, whose party leader R.R. Patil is Maharashtra home minister.
Preity IPL stake
Preity has denied reports that she is considering selling her stake in Kings XI Punjab or looking to settle in the US. “A big Thank U 2all the people 4the support. Amazed at how much speculation in the media. No I’m not selling my stake or settling in the US,” the actress, now in Los Angeles, tweeted.