India’s most wanted criminal has been arrested in Bali after two decades on the run.
Alleged mob boss Rajendra Nikalje, more often referred to as Chhota Rajan, was wanted for operating a crime syndicate in connection with a slew of offenses ranging from murder to extortion.
As police closed in, Nikalje disappeared in 1995 from Mumbai and was placed on the international police organization Interpol’s most wanted list.
Nikalje was traveling from Sydney, Australia on Sunday when he was arrested in Bali. Interpol notified the authorities there, Bali police spokesman Heri Wiyanto told The Associated Press.
“What we know is that this man was suspected to have carried out 15 to 20 murders in India,” Wiyanto said. “We received information from police in Canberra yesterday about the red notice for a murderer.”
Australian, Indian, and Indonesian authorities are now coordinating the next move for Nikalje, though he will likely be deported back to India.
Nikalje is being held for questioning in Bali’s capital and popular resort city of Denpasar. Nikalje admitted he had been living in Australia for years before his arrest and was traveling to Bali for a vacation, according to police.
Indonesian officials said Nikalje used a fake passport with the pseudonym Mohan Kumar to board a flight on Garuda Indonesia, the Associated Press reported.
The India Central Bureau of Intelligence Director Anil Sinha told the Times of India that India had been in close contact with both Australian and Indonesian authorities over Nikalje, who had been using several aliases.
“We tracked Chhota Rajan’s movements closely and informed the police in Indonesia and Australia,” Sinha, the CBI director told Australian public radio. “We are making arrangements to bring him to India and purse all criminal cases against him.
Nikalje is purported to have close links with another famous fugitive, Dawood Ibrahim, a gangster who is now said to live in Pakistan after he was sought out for masterminding the 1993 Mumbai bombing, which killed 250 people and injured 700.
Nikalje started in crime in the 1970s, selling illegal movie tickets before climbing the ranks of the mob, according to New Delhi Television. He is accused by police of ordering the 2011 drive-by shooting of a well-known journalist in Mumbai.
“People were so scared that they stopped holding their marriages in Mumbai or purchasing expensive cars,” said P.S. Pasricha, the Mumbai police chief. “Because the moment they did, they would get calls from the gangsters for extortion.”
Nikalje and Ibrahim later split and became rivals as they allegedly sought to control India’s entertainment and financial industries.
India has stepped up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to return Ibrahim, though Pakistan denies the fugitive is living in the country.
Australian federal police told The Guardian they had been tracking Nikalje for more than a month before his flight to Indonesia, where the alleged ringleader was eventually arrested upon a request from India.