The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shilpa’s father gives cops the slip

Mumbai, May 31: Where is Surendra Shetty' That is a question Surat police want answered as they scan Mumbai waiting to lay their hands on the father of actress Shilpa Shetty.

Though Shilpa — currently in Bangalore shooting for a movie — says her father is “not absconding” and that he is ready to co-operate with the police and the courts, the reality appears to be different.

A police source said Surendra has been absconding ever since a Surat court dismissed his bail plea yesterday, saying there was a prima facie case against him. Surendra had sought anticipatory bail in connection with an extortion case filed against him by the owner of Prafful Sarees, Pankaj Agarwal, in Surat’s Umra police station.

Surendra is alleged to have hired a gangster to extort Rs 2 crore from Agarwal, an amount he claimed was due to Shilpa for an advertising campaign done in 1997 for the sari brand.

A Surat police team arrived here this morning to find the Shettys’ Versova apartment in Aditya building locked. The team has sought help from Mumbai police to nab Surendra. A letter requesting help has reportedly been sent to Mumbai police chief R.S. Sharma.

Shilpa’s mother, Sunanda, who was briefly arrested on Friday when she landed at Sahar airport from Dubai, has got transit bail from a Mumbai court. She has been asked to get regular bail from the Surat sessions court on or before June 12.

But the Surat court has not been so lenient with her husband. In rejecting Surendra’s bail plea and saying there was a prima facie case against him, the court took into account the telephone conversations between Fazlur Rehman — the Malaysia-based don whom Surendra turned to — and Agarwal.

There are also recordings of alleged conversations between Agarwal and Surendra and between Agarwal and Dinesh Shetty, Rehman’s henchman in Surat. Agarwal is repeatedly told to pay up and assured that the threats will stop once he pays up.

The Surat police say they have strong evidence against Surendra and will not return without arresting him. But indications are that Surendra will not surface until he moves Gujarat High Court asking it to overturn the sessions court order dismissing his bail plea. He is likely to move court soon.

The Shettys are facing considerable embarrassment because of the “absconder” tag attached to Surendra.

“Please don’t conduct a trial by media,” the actress said from Bangalore. “Whatever is happening is neither right nor fair. I can vouch for my father’s innocence because he will never stoop so low as to do what he is being accused of doing.”

Shilpa added that Agarwal owed them money and that they had sent him two legal notices. “But nobody seems to be talking about that,’’ she said.

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