Man held for 2013 VK mur­der of BSP leader

Af­ter 4 Years On The Run, Prat­i­b­hanand Ran Into Po­lice Trap At Ghazi­abad Rail­way Sta­tion

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES CITY - Ab­hi­jay.Jha@ times­

Ghazi­abad: Swami Prat­i­b­hanand, an ac­cused in the mur­der of Delhi-based busi­ness­man Deepak Bhard­waj in­side a Vas­ant Kunj farm­house in 2013, was taken off a train while on his way to Harid­war and ar­rested at Ghazi­abad rail­way sta­tion late on Fri­day.

Prat­i­b­hanand (49) is ac­cused of con­spir­ing with Bhard­waj’s es­tranged son Nitesh and hir­ing hit­men to gun down 62-year-old Bhard­waj, who had con­tested the 2009 Lok Sabha election on a BSP ticket from West Delhi. Po­lice said Prat­i­b­hanand was pro- mised Rs 5 crore by Nitesh.

Nitesh and oth­ers ac­cused in the case were ar­rested within days of the mur­der but Prat­i­b­hanand dodged po­lice for four years by chang­ing hide­outs and dis­guis­ing him­self be­fore his luck ran out. “We had re­ceived tip-off that Prat­i­b­hanand alias Mach­hen­dranath will be halt­ing at Ghazi­abad sta­tion while on his way to Harid­war from Mathura. We laid a trap and ar­rested him soon af­ter he boarded the train.” said Ghazi­abad po­lice chief Hari Narayan Singh. “He was on the run for four years and Delhi Po­lice had an­nounced a re­ward of Rs 1 lakh on his ar- rest. We have in­formed our Delhi coun­ter­parts,” added Singh. A pis­tol was found on Prat­i­b­hanand when he was ar­rested, po­lice said.

Prat­i­b­hanand, who was on Satur­day pro­duced be­fore news re­porters, made no at­tempt to de­fend him­self. In­stead, he said, “Deepak Bhard­waj’s son Nitesh and his lawyer friend Bal­jeet Sher­awat wanted him killed be­cause they feared they will get noth­ing from his huge prop­erty.” He also re­futed the po­lice ver­sion he was of­fered Rs 5 crore by Nitesh. “In fact, I was promised Rs 10 crore to carry out the killing, of which I re­ceived Rs 12.5 lakh,” he said. “I wanted to set up my own ashram and I needed money for that.”

Prat­i­b­hanand, who is orig­i­nally from Beed in Maha- rash­tra, al­legedly hired Pu­rushot­tam Rana alias Monu and Su­nil Mann to kill the busi­ness­man. “Both shoot­ers were his dis­ci­ples and on March 26, 2013, they shot Deepak Bhard­waj in his farm­house af­ter two failed at­tempts,” said Singh. “He was a mas­ter of dis­guise and shifted base fre­quently be­tween Harid­war, Hi­machal Pradesh, Mathura and Ma­ha­rasthra, which made it dif­fi­cult for the po­lice to trace him.”

Bhard­waj, a wealthy busi­ness­man, was the rich­est can­di­date in Delhi to con­test from Delhi in 2009, hav­ing de­clared as­sets worth Rs 600 crore.

Umesh Ku­mar

Prat­i­b­hanand is ac­cused of plot­ting the mur­der of Deepak Bhard­waj and hir­ing hit­men

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