KOCHI: The Kerala Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Thursday arrested an Uppala native who had allegedly hired underworld don Ravi Pujari to extort money from actor Leena Maria Paul by firing at her beauty parlour in Panampilly Nagar. Yusuf Ziya alias Jiya, who had absconded after the December 2018 shooting incident, was arrested from the Mumbai airport while attempting to travel overseas using a fake passport in the morning.
According to ATS officials, the Immigration Bureau officials grew suspicious and prevented Yusuf from boarding the flight. Later, it was found that he was carrying a fake passport. Once his identity was confirmed, it emerged that a lookout notice has been issued against him in connection with the beauty parlour firing case. Immigration officials informed the ATS about Yusuf, and a team from ATS Kochi moved to Mumbai to take Yusuf into custody. The ATS expects to bring him to Kochi via flight by Thursday night or Friday morning.
The investigation team came to know of Yusuf’s role after interrogating Pujari. Yusuf came to know from his friends that Leena owns a fortune worth over Rs 100 crore. Through his connections in Dubai, he hired Pujari to extort money.
“The probe revealed Yusuf was into smuggling and operated a hawala channel. Around four cases are registered against him and his role is suspected in a murder incident. His arrest is crucial in completing the probe. Only one accused is now left to be traced in the case,” an ATS official said.
The ATS suspects that Yusuf, who left the country after the firing incident, had later returned to Kerala using a fake passport. “This year, a lookout notice was issued against him. However, he managed to get a fake passport and travelled back to India. He is also a friend of one Ajaz, who is on the run. Ajaz was passing on information regarding Leena to Yusuf,” the official said.
Yusuf will be produced before the magistrate court in Kochi on Friday evening. The ATS will file a petition seeking his custody for interrogation. The incident related to the case happened on December 15, 2018, when two motorcycle-borne youngsters opened fire at Leena’s beauty parlour. The police have arrested six persons, including Ravi Pujari, in the case.