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Police, not Veerappan sought money, says Gopal

"I did not give any ransom money to forest brigand Veerappan to secure the release of the nine Karnataka forest personnel, but I had to bribe policemen at jungle checkposts to bring the hostages back," said R R Gopal, Tamil Nadu government emissary and Nakkeeran editor, on Wednesday.

Talking to newspersons after screening a video-recorded interview with Veerappan during his third mission to meet the sandalwood smuggler, Gopal said bringing the hostages back proved more difficult than securing their release from Veerappan.

He said the policemen were present at all the 11 checkposts in the Dimbam-Gethesel area, despite assurances from the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments that his route would be kept clear.

"Anticipating security risks, I had instructed my drivers to keep hundred rupee notes ready to be delivered as bribes to the waiting policemen at the checkposts," he said, adding that the cars were let off the moment the money changed hands.

Gopal said the police had kept surveillance on him though he was armed with letters from the home secretaries of the two states to ensure his safe passage. "Those letters could convince only my wife before I set out and nobody else later," he quipped.

Securing their release was difficult enough. Gopal said he had to keep insisting on the release of the hostages. "I told Veerappan that it was wrong to detain the people at the time of the golden jubilee of the country's Independence," he added.

Gopal said Veerappan first wanted the two journalists who accompanied him (Gopal) to return to the city and obtain an undertaking from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and Union Home Minister Indrajit Gupta that they would concede to his demands.

"I had to tell Veerappan that this would embolden the police to locate his hideout by following the journalists," he said.

Veerappan first agreed to release only three of the hostages and it needed a night-long effort to persuade him to release all the eight hostages.

"The moment he agreed to release all of them, I felt I had succeeded in my mission, an elated Gopal concluded. But that was before he came to the jungle checkposts...

Veerappan decides he won't surrender

Veerappan releases hostages

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