MANGALURU:International crime lord Chhota Rajan, who was arrested in Bali in Indonesia on Monday, had struck deep roots in Dakshina Kannada district, which gave him his most trusted lieutenants.
Rajan’s operations in the coastal region began as early as 1988, with his gangsters targeting moneybags in Mangaluru.
Paniyoor Sadhu Shetty, who had joined the Chhota Rajan gang after falling out with the ‘D’ company, brought the extortion racket into Mangaluru.
A prominent hotelier in the city recalled how he got a ‘hafta call’ from Rajan through his henchman Sadhu Shetty demanding Rs 1 crore.
The hotelier chose to ignore the call and would have lost one of his top managers if not for an alert policeman, who foiled the shootout attempt in the hotel.
A sharpshooter policeman from Mumbai had tipped off his colleagues in Mangaluru, who managed to avert the killing.
Chhota Rajan did not get directly involved in extortion attempts in Karnataka, but his tribesmen had a free run as long as Sadhu Shetty, Sharad Shetty, Jayaprakash Shetty, Hemanth Shetty and Rohit Shetty were running his business.
Bengaluru and Mangaluru were just emerging as big real estate destinations of South India in the early 1990s, which brought many Mumbai-based builders to Bengaluru.
Rajan, who was the top operator in Mumbai, had recruited jobless youths to run his business in these two cities.
Chhota Rajan, based on advice from Sadhu and Sharad, recruited Mangaluru-based youths as they were physically fit, loyal and executed extortion calls with precision.
Jayaprakash Shetty (JP as he was known) was the ‘surveyor’ and used to convey the financial conditions of the businessmen directly to Rajan’s coordinates in Mumbai,” said a former police officer, on the condition of anonymity.
Mumbai-based and Mangaluru-based builders operating in Bengaluru had to pay “protection money” to Rajan’s henchmen.
“We do not know if Rajan made the demands or not, but the money was collected in his name,” recollected a builder in Mangaluru.
Another contact that Rajan had in Karnataka was Mohan Kotian, who was involved in extortion from Mumbai-based builders in Bengaluru.
Kotian was killed by unidentified gunmen on the Bengaluru-Tirupati Highway. One of the passports held by
Rajan had a Murdudeshwara (in Uttara Kannada) address, and another one had a Mandya address.