Sobhraj distances himself from copycat Indian criminals

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : An enraged Charles Sobhraj has distanced himself from a report in the Indian media that said three Indians drugged and robbed over 100 people after being inspired by the man dubbed the “Bikini Killer” of the 70s, who shared his past techniques with them under the eye of the police.

Support TwoCircles

“I am outraged at the defamatory and untrue comments published in the Indian press about Mr Sobhraj in relation to the recent arrest of three criminals in Delhi,” the French national’s lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre said in a statement issued from Paris.

“This is pure fabrication and clearly a new manipulation against Mr Sobhraj, in order to prejudice his current appeal in Nepal,” she said.

The denial came after the Indian Expess daily carried a report last week about the arrest of three residents of New Delhi, who, it said, were “inspired” by Sobhraj, who hit the headlines for a string of forgery, robbery and drugging of foreign tourists in the 70s.

According to the report, Manish Soni, 36, Avinder Singh, 45, and Sachin Gandhi, 28, began befriending people and then robbing them after losing a lot of money in the casinos of Nepal and Goa.

“Delhi residents Manish Soni and Avinder Singh idolised Sobhraj and decided to take a leaf out of his book,” the Express report said.

“Singh made it a point to be present in Kathmandu courtrooms where Sobhraj has appealed against his life term. According to the police, he also managed to talk to Sobhraj a couple of times and questioned him how he had drugged his victims. Inspired by his technique, Singh, along with Soni and Sachin Gandhi, came up with a plan that eventually helped them earn millions,” the report added.

Sobhraj’s lawyer rubbished the report, saying that her client had never spoken to anyone while in court.

She also said that he has not been attending hearings for several months, letting his lawyers handle the hearing.

Court attendants say Sobhraj, wearing a cap, sat quietly behind his lawyers, occasionally passing them written notes.

Barring officials of the French Embassy who also attend the hearings and a few reporters who are known to him, he keeps his own counsel.

Deeply secretive about his past life, he is most unlikely to discuss crime techniques with anyone.

“I take this opportunity to confirm that my client is a victim of the corrupt and incompetent Nepalese judiciary system, which forgets what applying the law and complying with international standards of justice means, by unjustly and indefinitely keeping him incarcerated for the past four and a half years,” his lawyer said.

Sobhraj was arrested in Nepal in 2003 and charged with the murder of an American backpacker almost 30 years ago.

Though he denies having come to Nepal earlier, the district court slapped a 20-year jail sentence on him and his appeal was turned down by the appellate court.

The 63-year-old began his final bid for freedom in Nepal’s Supreme Court but received a blow last month when the apex court, instead of delivering the much-awaited final verdict, ordered that a past case of travelling on fake documents be revived.

Held in Kathmandu’s tightly guarded central jail since 2003, Sobhraj has been the subject of constant media attention and paid dearly for it.

After a local daily reported that he had a computer and Internet access inside his prison and a telephone and was planning to stage a jailbreak by drugging his guards, the prison authorities tightened their vigilance.

Sobhraj’s family fears that the fresh reports in the media would affect his trial by perjudicing the judges.

Last year, Sobhraj threatened to sue a Bollywood director who was planning to make a film on him without his permission.