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Sobhraj ready to take on Bollywood, with or without old foe

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : The entry of his old foe in the ring once again does not scare yesteryear’s super criminal Charles Sobhraj, who says he is ready to take on Bollywood, with or without the diplomat-turned-consultant who has hounded him for years.

“It is just a gimmick,” said the 64-year-old’s lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, dismissing reports that Bollywood filmmaker Prawaal Raman is signing up former Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg as a consultant for his upcoming film “Charles and I”, which is speculated to be based on the past life of Sobhraj.

“However, we are not concerned,” Coutant-Peyre told IANS. “They know they can’t make the film. We will take legal action in due course of time.”

The new twist to the Sobhraj saga, which has continued to grip the world from the 1970s, comes after Raman decided to make a new film, “Charles and I”, with Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt in the lead.

When it was known that the film was about an international criminal who is wanted by police in several countries, people began linking it to Charles Sobhraj, who in the 1970s was wanted in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as some European countries.

Sobhraj’s lawyers informed Raman that he would be sued for defamation if he went ahead with the film without their consent. Subsequently, the threat made the director disclaim that his project was based on Sobhraj’s life.

However, the hiring of Knippenberg as a consultant bolsters Sobhraj’s contention since Knippenberg has played a key role in depicting Sobhraj as a serial killer to the media.

Knippenberg was based in the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok in the 1970s when concerned Dutch families informed him that two Dutch tourists were missing from the Thai capital.

Since then, he became entwined with Sobhraj’s life, a bond of hate that persists even today, years after his retirement and moving from Bangkok to New Zealand.

The Dutch diplomat’s story forms the basis of a book on Charles Sobhraj’s crimes, including alleged serial murder of western tourists, a docu-drama and media reports.

Knippenberg also wrote an article for Reader’s Digest, slamming Sobhraj as a serial killer and highlighting his role in exposing Sobhraj – an article that was presented in Nepal’s court by lawyers who hailed it as proof that Sobhraj killed an American tourist in Kathmandu in 1975.

Last year, Coutant-Peyre successfully fought a battle against a website hosted from Knippenberg’s home country that sought to portray Sobhraj as a convicted killer acknowledged to be so by the UN.

Sobhraj says he has never been convicted for murder by any court and labelling him serial killer amounts to defamation. He also says that the Nepal court was the first to sentence him for murder five years ago.

However, since that case is still being fought in Nepal’s Supreme Court, the issue remains sub judice.

Last year, Coutant-Peyre flew down to Nepal to present to the UN the Dutch website, believed to have been hosted by Knippenberg, whom Sobhraj accuses of being involved in a vendetta against him.

On the UN’s intervention, the Dutch authorities closed down the website.