Siem Reap, a stopover point for the rich and famous, is also the ideal hang for major gangsters on the run, or at least it was back in 2000 when the notorious Indian crime lord Chhota Rajan holed up in the city after a dramatic escape from Bangkok, where he had been victim as such of an equally dramatic attempt to kill him by rival crime gang bosses.
This has come to light following the arrest in Bangkok on August 6 of fugitive gangster Santosh Shetty.
According to the Times of India, Shetty was, “Once the right hand man of Chhota Rajan, on the country’s most-wanted list, Shetty is suspected in the February 2009 killing of lawyer Shahid Azmi, who was representing suspects in the serial train blasts, the November 2010 killing of Rajan henchman Farid Tanasha and the October 2010 killing of gangster Bharat Nepali in a Bangkok hotel.”
Shetty was arrested in a Bangkok beer bar after he got into a brawl with a few businessmen.
An Indian crime branch officer told the Times, “Shetty has a dangerous criminal mind. In February 2009, he tied up with Bharat Nepali to gun down Azmi. Later he bumped off Nepali, who you will remember had parted ways with the Rajan gang in 2000. In between he had Tanasha killed right in Rajan’s stronghold of Tilak Nagar, Chembur. Shetty is emerging as Mumbai underworld’s top chap.”
But Shetty, top chap that he is, has been singing like a bird since his bust about his former boss and then arch rival, mobster Chhota Rajan.
In September 2000 Rajan had skipped India to hole up in Bangkok, but another rival mobster and staunch enemy Dawood Ibrahim learned of his whereabouts and sent Pakistani hitmen to despatch him.
Posing as pizza delivery men the hit men gunned down Rajan’s hitman Rohit Varma and his wife.
But Rajan’s people said he made a cunning escape through the hotel’s roof and fire-escape.
Dawood Ibrahim, not backward in coming forward to the media, later confirmed the attack by telephone to news site rediff.com, claiming though that Rajan escaped by jumping out of the window of the first-floor room where he was attacked.
Either way, Rajan injured himself, wound up in Bangkok’s Samitivej Sukhumvit hospital under police guard, facing a bid to extradite him to India where authorities wanted him to stand trial on 17 counts of murder and other mob-related charges.
Rajan then escaped from the hospital on November 24 after allegedly paying a senior police officer 25 million baht then ($586,000) to let him escape unnoticed.
At the time, a source told the Bangkok Post, the Scientific Crime Detection Division examined a mountain-climbing rope and a pulley recovered from the hospital room.
The division claimed that the 13mm diameter and 40 metre long rope was capable of taking the weight of at least 200 kg. It also said that scratches on the rope led to the belief that it had been used. Cement powder was also found on it.
The findings confirm Rajan’s claim at the time, in a telephone interview with two Indian television channels, that he was helped out of the room by a professional mountaineering team.
Earlier this month, NDTV.com carried a detailed account of Shetty’s most recent account and said, “The way Shetty narrated the story of Rajan’s escape to the Mumbai police, it might as well have been the script of a Hollywood thriller. After the fatal attack on his life by rival gangsters Chhota Shakeel and Dawood Ibrahim, Rajan was admitted to a third-floor room in Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital in Bangkok, heavily guarded by the Thai police. There, he hatched a plan to flee.
‘“His aides Bharat Nepali and Shetty bought mountaineering equipment and practised clambering walls for two days. Then one night, they got drunk with the watchman of the hospital and mixed sedatives in his drink to knock him cold,’ said a CB officer.
“‘After the watchman was asleep, they climbed down with an injured Rajan, and with the help of Thai businessman Parazane, got hold of a military vehicle and escaped to Bangkok. There, the governor of Cambodia had arranged for a special helicopter to fly Rajan to Siem Reap’, said the officer.”
Earlier the Indian Express ran an article quoting Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy, who said, “Shetty had a girlfriend of Chinese origin named Pun, who was an accomplished mountaineer. Pun provided them mountaineering gear and trained Shetty and Nepali for two days on how to bring down Rajan from a third-floor window.”
According to NDTV, “In a startling revelation, Shetty said that the military played a major role in Rajan’s escape from Bangkok.
“The military personnel aided the transportation of Rajan until the Cambodian border. From there Rajan was picked up in a chopper by then governor of Cambodia and ferried to a safer hideout in Siem Reap, he said.”