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Sobhraj freed, jailed again for not having papers

In swift developments following the release on bail of conman Charles Sobhraj in New Delhi on Monday, the French fugitive was taken into custody by the police which was subsequently validated until March 22 by an official of the Foreigners Regional Registration Office.

Immediately after the ''re-arrest'' of Sobhraj when he was being taken by his counsel Rajan Bakshi in a car to the French embassy to enable him to collect his identity documents, Bakshi filed a contempt of court petition against the police in the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Prem Kumar, who had earlier enlarged on him bail.

Taking cognisance of the petition, the CMM issued a notice to the police upon which deputy commissioner of police Pradip Shrivastava appeared in the court and said the police had not committed any contempt.

The chief metropolitan magistrate asked him to file a written reply by 1400 hours Tuesday.

The court was later informed that Sobhraj was taken to the FRRO whose official, S K Jain, remanded him in custody till March 22 for not possessing valid identity papers.

The French national's release warrant was signed earlier by Prem Kumar after accepting the personal bail bond executed by the fugitive who has spent about 20 years in the high security central Tihar jail in Delhi and various other prisons in India.

Heavy security arrangements had been made inside the Tis Hazari courts complex with over 200 Delhi police personnel, including some from the riot control wing, deployed.

The master trickster was involved in several cases of murder, mostly of women he had won over with his deceptive charm, and jailbreak. He used to befriend jail officials only to use them to escape making a mockery of the so-called impregnable security at various jails.

Sobhraj, who has a long criminal record with several murder and cheating cases once pending against him in various countries, including Thailand and India, had escaped from the Tihar jail in 1986 after tricking the security personnel into taking some eatables laced with drugs. He made a quiet getaway after the officials fell unconscious.

He was, however, re-arrested subsequently in Goa and brought back to Delhi. The police slapped another case against him for jail break.

Bakshi had moved an application requesting that the complete jail custody records of Sobhraj be produced in the court before the release of his client.

Accepting the prayer, the court had asked the jail authorities for the production of records.

Sobhraj, now 53, was running a curio shop in Bangkok when he was in his late twenties. He allegedly used to lure foreign tourists into his shop before drugging them, in some cases to death, before looting their belongings.

The Malaysian government had sought the extradition of the internationally notorious criminal but this could not be done as he had to undergo imprisonment for various crimes committed in India.

Mesmerised by his deceptive charm, dozens of women in various countries fell prey to him. He allegedly exploited them physically before killing or dumping them.

Sobhraj is also reportedly involved in a sensational bank forgery case in the United Kingdom.

The history-sheeter had mobilised the support of dozens of fellow criminals inside the Tihar jail before making good his escape. Among the 23 conspirators mentioned in the chargesheet relating to the jailbreak case, were a notorious swindler Rajinder Sethia and Raju Bhatnagar who was facing several cases concerning kidnap for ransom and subsequent murder.

Sobhraj was released on bail following surety provided to him by Swaran Rathore, wife of Ranbir Singh Rathore, who was court martialled in the Samba spy scandal case and jailed between 1980 and 1989.

Rathore was a cellmate of Sobhraj. The French national's counsel Rajan Bakshi was tried in a case involving violation of the Official Secrets Act, but subsequently acquitted.

Sobhraj was also allegedly running a drug syndicate in Hong Kong and murdered several small-time traffickers in the process.

Granting him bail, the chief metropolitan magistrate had directed Sobhraj to provide two personal bonds and sureties each worth Rs 20,000 and Rs 10,000 respectively.

This was provided by Rathore and his wife.


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