Business Standard

Jewish-American held for helping Israeli undertrial flee: Police

IANS  |  Panaji 

A Jewish-American booked on late Thursday for plotting the escape of an Israeli held for alleged possession of drugs was until some months back responsible for security at the Jewish Chabad house in Mumbai targeted during the 26/11 terror attack, a top police officer said on Friday.

Addressing a press conference here, Inspector General of Police Sunil Garg said Naftari Samuel's, 25, facilitated the escape of Neria Bendavid, 20, an Israeli who was booked in January this year for possession of LSD liquid worth Rs.20.60 lakh.

"It was a Bollywood style plan, which was worth of a film script. The planning was meticulous and was done days in advance," Garg said, a day after Samuel and Bendavid was arrested after a brief chase on Thursday.

Bendavid was being ferried under armed escort to the state-run Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour near Panaji when Samuel, armed with pepper spray, attacked police, resulting in a punch-up between police constable and the American national.

While Samuel was eventually overpowered by the cop and onlookers, Bendavid managed to flee on a getaway motorcycle which had been parked at the site by the American, two days earlier.

Bendavid was eventually arrested in Khandepar, a village in the forested remote north eastern part of Goa, by a police team which was tracking his motorcycle.

"The planning was thorough. The motorcycle was kept near the canteen at IPHB two days in advance and this knowledge was given to the Israeli. Plus he (Samuel) had hired a taxi and told the taxi driver to wait on highway.

"Baggage of both persons was in taxi. They were supposed to go to Raichur (in Karnataka) and Rs.5,000 was paid in advance," Deputy Superintendent of Police Umesh Gaonkar, who was monitoring the operation which eventually led to the re-arrest of Bendavid, told IANS.

Samuel, Gaonkar said, is a US citizen and had a multiple entry visa to India and was serving as the caretaker of a Chabad house, a Jewish prayer house, in Goa since February this year.

"We had booked the Israeli in January. The American came in the month of February. So all these links we have to verify. Yesterday, I interrogated (Samuel), he told me that when he came to the Chabad house (in Goa), he came to know about the Israeli who was caught in drug case. He said he wanted to help him because he was a 'good man'," Gaonkar said.

The official said Samuel would visit court hearings for which the Israeli was escorted from judicial lock up and had scouted the entire route as well as the lay out at the psychiatry institute, from where the release attempt was made.

"Basically he has a good knowledge of security, because he was looking after the security at Nariman House also," Gaonkar said.

The Chabad House located in Nariman Point, Mumbai, also known as the Nariman House is one of the few synagogues in Mumbai and was attacked during the 26/11 terror attack in 2008.

Goa until recently was a popular holiday destination for Israeli tourists, but their number has seen a decline over the last few years.

First Published: Fri, May 15 2015. 19:38 IST