Panaji: Normally associated with the legendary cafes with strong tea and khari (salted pastry), the word 'Irani' has been proving to be a headache for police in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa, for more unworthy reasons.
Arrest of members of the 'Irani gang' over the last week, believed to be comprised of persons of Iranian descent, by Goa Police is expected to unravel scores of crimes in Goa and neighbouring states, by the gang using a virtual cocktail of modus operandi which includes chain or bag snatching after impersonating as policemen or CBI officials.
"We have arrested three men in all. They have confessed to crimes in Karnataka and Maharashtra too. It was a proper inter-state operation in the sense they would commit crimes in one state and lie low in another state for a while and then go off again," a police official involved in the capture told a news agency.
The first arrest, that of Pune resident Asadullah Jafri, 40, from a cheap hotel in the beach village of Calangute, located 20 km from Panaji, in connection with snatching of a mangalsutra in Panaji last week, eventually led to two other arrests on Friday evening.
Besides admitting to the crime, Jafri broke down during interrogation and revealed the names of Sahil Khan and Kalandar Jafar, who were picked up by police from Pune Friday.
"The gang used to operate from Pune and Mumbai and towns in Karnataka like Dharwad, Bidar and Hubli. Mostly they posed as policemen and looted unsuspecting women or tourist groups," said police sub-inspector Vikram Naik, an investigating officer in the case.
Goa Police are also in touch with Bengaluru police , trying to establish whether the gang was involved in crimes in Karnataka's capital too, because of offences with similar modus operandis committed there.
Chain snatchings, nearly a hundred of which have been reported in Goa over the last year and more, have been a bane for the state police.
The repeated failure of the police to crack the marathon of cases even forced the British foreign office to list such chain snatchings, especially in the tourism-friendly coastal areas, as a cause for worry in its advisory to the nearly 100,000 nationals who land in Goa as tourists.
Drunk groups of tourists in Goa were one of the most sought after 'target audience' for this gang, whose members would confidently flash forged ID cards (a forged Goa Police ID card was also seized from the gang) and threaten them with offences like loitering or drunken driving and demand bribes.
"We have several reported instances where unsuspecting women were told by the gang members posing as policemen to hide their ornaments because of a gang of thieves operating in the area. They would even offer a kerchief to the women to cache the gold in. After some time when the woman unwrapped the kerchief, there were only stones in it," an official said.
Perhaps the police in the three states, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra could heave a sigh of relief, now that their 'Irani' nemesis appears to have been thwarted -- at least for some time now