Mumbai, Aug. 18: Flush with the success of “Operation Crack Gangster”, which was to nab notorious don Suresh Manchekar, Mumbai police got another feather in its cap today by arresting the slain gangster’s top aide, Maharaj.
Commenting on Maharaj’s arrest, a top crime branch officer said: “We are well on our way to finishing the Manchekar gang. We heard that businessmen in Thane had distributed sweets and done some charity work after learning about the gangster’s death. Now they can celebrate some more.”
Maharaj, one of Manchekar’s principal pointmen in Mumbai, was arrested from the city suburb of Mulund.
Manchekar was shot dead in a police encounter near Kolhapur on August 15. Overwhelmed by their catch, the police had termed Manchekar’s death as “an Independence gift to Mumbai”.
A police source said in Manchekar’s absence — the don had of late been working from secret locations in Madhya Pradesh and Goa — Maharaj, whose real name is Santosh, had taken up the responsibility of broadening the don’s crime base in Thane, Mumbai, Kalyan, Dombivili and Ullhasnagar.
Crime branch cops nabbed Maharaj when the gangster was on his way to Nashik in his car. The police said the gangster had been “very active”, extorting money from real estate developers, restaurant owners, industrialists and even successful doctors.
Maharaj has reportedly confessed to his underworld activities during preliminary interrogations and given important leads on Manchekar’s lesser known rackets and assets.
Having driven most of the top underworld dons out of Mumbai and India, the police now seem to be impatient to end the Manchekar crime empire. Assistant commissioner of police (crime) Amar Jadhav said other associates of Manchekar, his friends and relatives are being closely monitored. “We are at it and if we find that they (the don’s associates and relatives) have something to do with Manchekar’s activities we will book them under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.”
Manchekar’s 72-year-old mother Laxmi was recently sentenced to life imprisonment for her complicity in the murder of a well-to-do Mumbai businessman called Mahendra Khanvilkar on March 22, 2002. Around 24 of his sharpshooters have already been killed in encounters in the last five years. The police are on the lookout for seven to eight top Manchekar aides said to be “active” in the extortion and hafta collection business.
Manchekar, who formed his own gang sometime in the early 90s, had 31 serious cases registered against his name. Going against the trend, the don had refused to follow the path of other mafiamen like Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel, Abu Salem and Chhota Rajan, preferring to remain in India. He also had the distinction of not aligning with any of the other big dons.