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Sri Lankan bag-lifter held in S Delhi

A 38-year-old thief, allegedly involved in more than 100 cases of bag-lifting, was arrested on Wednesday. Dharmalingam alias Dharma, was arrested along with his aide Pradeep, who was the receiver of stolen goods from Dharma, from Madangir.

Jewellery worth Rs 3 lakh and Rs 18.5 lakh in cash were seized from the two. Dharma, who belongs to Sri Lanka, has cases registered against him in Delhi, Tamil Nadu and several other states, his most sensational involvement was theft of diamonds worth more than Rs 80 lakh from a Mumbai jeweller near the domestic airport.

The jeweller, Ambrish Kothari, had just disembarked from a flight on December 21, 2005, from Mumbai and was on his way to Sainik Farms in a taxi when he was waylaid by Dharma and his gang. Kothari was carrying a bag which contained diamonds worth Rs 80 lakh with him.

One of the tyres got punctured at a distance of about one kilometre from the airport. Kothari told the police that a man then appeared before him and asked directions to Karol Bagh. While Kothari was talking to Dharma, his aides picked up the bag from the car and fled.

“They inserted a needle into one of the tyres just before the taxi left. He has admitted that he executed the crime with help from six other men,” said DCP (south) Anil Shukla.

Two of Dharma’s associates were arrested in January 2006 by the south Delhi police but Dharma fled to south India. A reward of Rs 25,000 was announced for him by the police.

Talking about the gang’s modus operandi the police said that the accused would first try and locate a car with a bag lying in it at busy market places or airports.

Then one of them would insert a needle into one of the tyres and wait for the owner to drive off. They would then follow the car in a van and would strike as soon as car stopped with a deflated tyre.

They also had elderly men and children in the gang to avoid suspicion. In a few other cases, they punctured tyres at red lights with the help of a ‘phatta’ or a long piece of wood fitted with nails.

If this also failed, they would then smash one of the windows with a ‘gulel’ after the car was left unattended and flee with the bag. In some other cases, they scattered a few hundred rupee notes around the car to divert the attention of the driver.

Some time ago, Dharma sold off his house in Vikaspuri and another one in Madangir and settled down in Trichi. He was apparently building a mansion there but the police got wind of his plans and he sold that off. He had recently shifted to Coimbatore. He was also wanted by the police in Andhra Pradesh, MP, J&K, Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra. He had been arrested once in 2005 in Delhi but got a bail. He was also in touch with some Mumbai jewellers who helped him dispose stolen goods.

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