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Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
Indian mafia boss 'freed'
Suspected mob boss Chhota Rajan
A wounded Chhota Rajan at a Bangkok court appearance
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

Suspected Indian underworld don Chhota Rajan was released by the Thai authorities in Bangkok on Thursday, according to reports reaching Bombay.

In what could well have been a scene from a typical Bollywood film where the police only appear after the game is up, two hours after Chhota Rajan's release, a three-member team of Bombay police officials landed in Bangkok.

Chhota Rajan timeline
15 September: Chhota Rajan shot in his Bangkok apartment
28 September: Chhota Rajan appears in Bangkok court
29 September: Bombay police say they will travel to Bangkok
5 October: Chhota Rajan free after extradition deadline expires
They are there ostensibly to co-operate with Thai investigations into Chhota Rajan and, if possible, to try to bring him back to Bombay where he is wanted in connection with at least 17 cases of murder.

The joint commissioner Bombay police, D Shivanandan, told the BBC on Thursday he is still to hear from his officials in Bangkok - who took a flight there only at 0400 (Bombay time) today after getting the go-ahead to do so from Delhi late last night,

Wrangling

Mr Shivanandan said the city police cannot be faulted for delaying matters.

It may be recalled that the Maharashtra government had announced plans send a team of Bombay police officers to help the Thai authorities last week.

But matters were delayed because of procedural wrangling and red tape in Delhi with the federal home ministry and the ministry of external affairs passing the buck on the issue of who will should issue a formal request to the Thai authorities seeking the extradition of Chhota Rajan.

Deadline

After waiting to hear from the Indian Government for more than two weeks - Chhota Rajan was injured in a shoot-out on 15 September in a Bangkok suburb - the Thai authorities had set a deadline of Thursday to hear from the Indian government.

Armed Thai police
Thai police waited until Thursday
Maharashtra government officials are unhappy with the way the issue has been dealt with by the central government in Delhi.

"We were ready to send our team to Bangkok on Sunday. But permission was held back by authorities in Delhi. I don't know why," said the state home minister, Chhagan Bhujbal.

There is a growing feeling amongst state government circles that there was a plan to delay matters in Delhi and allow Rajan to go free.

It is believed that the Indian Government was not inclined to have Chhota Rajan arrested as that would have given his rival gang leader, Dawood Ibrahim, complete control over the Bombay underworld.

By contrast, the Maharashtra state authorities were keen to get him back.

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See also:

29 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
India to help gangland probe
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Bombay gang leader in court
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