Top Naxal commander, on the run for almost two decades, arrested in Delhi

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People's Liberation Front of India (PLFI) chief Dinesh Gope being brought after his arrest by National Investigation Agency | Photo: PTI

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested Dinesh Gope, the self-styled supremo of the proscribed People's Liberation Front of India (PLFI), an agency spokesperson said on Sunday.

The PLFI, which mainly operates in Jharkhand, is a splinter group of the Maoists.

Gope alias "Kuldeep Yadav" alias "Badku", who had more than 100 criminal cases against him and was carrying a reward of Rs 30 lakh on information leading to his arrest, was held in Delhi, the official said.

Gope, a resident of Khunti district in Jharkhand, was charge-sheeted by the NIA in a 2018 case related to the recovery of demonetised currency notes worth Rs 25.38 lakh from PLFI operatives, the spokesperson said.

He had been absconding for almost two decades. The NIA Ranchi branch is investigating three cases against the PLFI, which was previously known as the Jharkhand Liberation Tigers (JLT), the official said.

According to the NIA, the PLFI is responsible for hundreds of terror incidents in Jharkhand.

"More than 102 criminal cases are registered against Gope in Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha. Most of these cases relate to murder, abduction, threat, extortion, and raising funds for the PLFI, a militant Maoist outfit formed in 2007 in Jharkhand and a splinter group of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist),” the spokesperson said.

The official said the NIA had declared a reward of Rs 5 lakh for leads on Gope, in addition to the reward of Rs 25 lakh announced by the Jharkhand government.

On February 3 last year, an encounter had taken place between a Gope-led PLFI squad and security personnel in a forested area under Gudri Police station of West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand.

Several rounds were fired in the encounter before the rebels sneaked into the forest and Gope managed to escape, the official said, adding he had been taking shelter at different places while making all efforts to re-establish the PLFI's stronghold in Jharkhand.

"Gope used to extort money and execute attacks through his PLFI team members to terrorise businessmen, contractors and the public at large,” the spokesperson said.

The official said the accused, along with his associates, was involved in depositing the demonetised currency notes in a bank account and later collected them through extortion.

"The illegal money was then invested through banking channels and dubious shell companies in the name of close associates and family members of Gope," the official said.

The NIA said the case was initially registered on November 10, 2016 at Bero Police Station in Ranchi and re-registered by the NIA on January 19, 2018.

Currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 were withdrawn from circulation in 2016.

"The police had filed the first charge sheet against four persons on January 9, 2017. NIA filed the first supplementary charge sheet in the case against 11 accused, including Gope. Subsequently, NIA filed the second supplementary charge sheet in the case on July 23 last year against five individuals and three private limited companies,” the spokesperson said.

The official said the NIA had also attached 14 bank accounts and two cars, along with cash and immovable property worth more than Rs 1 crore, in the case.

"The outfit used to lure unemployed youths by providing them motor bikes, mobile phones and easy money and after imparting training, used to equip them with lethal weapons to carry out terror incidents," the spokesperson said.

The NIA said extortion is PLFI's major source of income and the outfit has been targeting coal traders, railway contractors and various private entities involved in developmental projects in various districts of Jharkhand.

The Naxal outfit had also formed alliances with different criminal gangs in order to spread their nefarious activities and executed murders and arson in Jharkhand, the official said.

"Gope was part of a criminal conspiracy to channelize the extorted funds collected from the contractors/businessmen engaged in the developmental projects in Jharkhand. He was involved in investing these funds in dubious shell companies like M/S Palak Enterprises, M/s Shiv Adi Shakti, M/s Shiv Shakti Samridhi Infra Pvt. Ltd., M/s Bhavya Engicon, formed in partnership with other PLFI associates and his family members.

“The extorted money was also being transferred from Jharkhand to other places through a network of hawala operators,” the spokesperson said.

In July 2007, Masi Charan Purty, a renegade of the CPI-Maoist, along with several of his followers, had joined Gope in order to raise PLFI as a Naxal outfit, the official said.

Though Purty was subsequently arrested, the PLFI spread its activities under Gope's command, the NIA said, adding the outfit used to extorted money to procure sophisticated weapons, including AK 47s and foreign-made rifles such as HK 33.


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