Mangaluru, Jan 25: Police sources have got information that notorious fugitive, Bannanje Raja, who has currently been lodged in Hindalga prison at Belagavi, has succeeded in collecting protection money (Hafta) amounting to over one hundred crore rupees. This amount was collected in Bannanje’s name during the last one year from rich businessmen from coastal Karnataka including Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, the sources have claimed.
It is not yet clear whether Bannanje Raja was directly behind the operation of this racket, or someone else including his associates are misusing his name to threaten people and collect protection money. Bannanje has been behind the bars since 2015 and it is a known fact that he has a strong network of associates in the country and abroad.
Bannanje Raja faces 48 cases including two in Pandeshwar, one each in Barke and Kadri stations, one each in Mysuru and Shivamogga, and six cases in different police stations at Bengaluru. He also has cases for different offences like Hafta collection, robbery, murder, offences under Arms Act etc. One of them relates to the murder of BJP leader, R N Nayak from Uttara Kannada district in 2013. He was arrested from Morocco on August 14, 2015 and brought into the country.
It is suspected that from inside the prison, he has been maintaining contact with his accomplices and getting things done through them.
It is said that the police have of late started getting complaints about the activities of people with underworld links, which points to the fact that their activities have gained momentum. Underworld elements like Ravi Poojary and Kali Yogeesh are said to be busy collecting money through their followers. Some among them have complained to the police while many, it is believed, would have paid the money.
A few weeks back, a city-based entrepreneur had received threat call demanding payment of Hafta. He complained to the police, and investigation is on. Although officially no complaints about the activities of underworld fugitives have been received after December 2017 when the elements had fired at Sanjeeva Shetty Silks and Saris at Car Street here, there is suspicion that their activities are being conducted secretly.
Some of the businessmen have sought police protection and a close watch has been kept on the movements of the notorious people, the police said.