Gangster Ravi Pujari, on the run for the last 15 years, has been arrested in Senegal in West Africa, a source in the security establishment said on Friday.
Security agencies got clues about his whereabouts following the arrest of one of his close associates in Mumbai recently, the source added.
Pujari, who allegedly ran an extortion syndicate targeting mainly builders in Mumbai, was held from a hotel in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on January 22, a senior official told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
The Mumbai Police did not comment on whether the report was true.
The Indian Embassy got information about his arrest on January 25, the official said.
Pujari is facing dozens of cases of extortion and murder in various parts of India.
His trusted lieutenants, William Rodricks and Akash Shetty, were recently arrested by the Crime Branch of Mumbai Police in an extortion case.
The Indian authorities will now initiate the extradition process to bring Pujari back to the country, the official said.
As per the senior official, investigating agencies received information about Pujari's whereabouts from Rodricks who used to be in touch with him over phone.
According to the police, Pujari, who hails from Karnataka, was initially associated with gangster Chhota Rajan, but he had also worked for fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
Pujari reportedly parted ways with Rajan following an attack on the latter in Bangkok, said to be carried out by the Dawood gang, and formed his own gang.
Like Rajan, Pujari too tried to project himself as a 'Hindu don', and allegedly killed some of the accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case when they were out on bail.
He was known for threatening builders and celebrities for extortion.
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt had told Mumbai Police that Pujari threatened him, following which some members of his gang were arrested for conspiring to kill Bhatt.
Advocate Shahid Azmi, who was shot dead in 2010, had alleged that the Pujari gang had threatened him for representing terror accused.
Pujari was living with a new identity,had got a Burkina Faso passport for himself and his family and ran a chain of restaurants in some West African nations, Karnataka police said on Friday.
“Ravi Pujari had obtained a new identity as Antony Fernadez and got a Burkina Faso passport for himself, his wife and children. Being a dreaded criminal and always afraid of his identity getting exposed, he ran away from Burkina Faso and his track was lost,” police said in a statement.
It said Additional Director General of Police (intelligence) Dr Amar Kumar Pandey coordinated with the National Crime Record Bureau to expedite the Red Corner Notice to Interpol on the directions of Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy to ensure the arrest of the gangster, wanted in several cases in Karnataka, including extortion.
Pandey also succeeded in obtaining information about the chain of restaurants Pujari ran in partnership in several West African countries like Guinea, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Ivory Coast, the statement said.
After getting information about Pujaris presence in Senegals capital city Dakar, he alerted the Indian Ambassador in that country, Rajeev Kumar.
Kumar got in touch with Senegal interior minister Aly Ngouille Nbiaye and the director of judicial police, Seydou Bocar Yague, the statement said.
On January 19, Senegal police received information about Pujaris presence in a barber shop and soon heavily armed policemen in three buses surrounded the place and arrested him, the statement said.
On January 21, Senegal police confirmed his arrest.
Pujari had hired shooters to attack his targets to create a scare, police said, adding, people used to pay up out of fear.
There are 39 cases against Pujari in Bengaluru alone, including the murders of Shailaja and Ravi of Shabnam Developers on February 15, 2007, police said.
He has 36 cases against him in Mangaluru, 11 in Udupi, and one each in Mysuru, Hubballi-Dharwad, Kolar and Shivamogga, police said.
The Karnataka government expressed its gratitude to the government of Senegal, especially the interior minister and director of judicial police, it said.
Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said on Friday that the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government in the state played a leading role in getting Pujari arrested.
He said the arrest of the don, wanted for many crimes in the state, was effected due to the 'sustained efforts' of Karnataka government officers, with the assistance of the central government and officials of the Indian Embassy at Senegal.
Lauding the efforts of Indian Ambassador to Senegal, Rajeev Kumar, Kumaraswamy said the officer and his subordinates got in touch with the Prime Minister and interior minister of that country and briefed him about the activities of 'the most wanted gangster.'
The chief minister said he was concerned over the extortion racket running in Karnataka, targetting builders and businessmen and had told Director General of Police Neelamani Raju and Additional Director General of Police (intelligence) to check the activities of Pujari.
"Many murders have taken place and many families were orphaned due to the gangster, whose sole objective was to make money through unfair means," Kumaraswamy said.
He said intelligence agencies got information that Pujari was present at a cricket match at Senegal on December 31 last year and closely monitored his activities since then.
They then informed the Indian Ambassdor in Senegal, who got in touch with the Prime Minister of that country.
The Indian ambassador Rajeev Kumar played a significant role in getting Pujari arrested, the chief minister said.
"He (Pujari) was arrested on January 19. Since then, we have moved ahead rapidly to extradite him with the help of the Central government. In the coming days, we will get more information," the chief minister said.
Kumaraswamy expressed confidence that the entire network would be busted soon.