Bengaluru: Over 200 police officers, 200 terabytes of video data from CCTV cameras, several hundred-thousand call records, and advanced technology, including artificial intelligence and analytic tools, had failed to make much headway in the Gauri Lankesh murder case. This, despite the involvement of 40 dedicated personnel investigating the journalists’s brutal murder.
The breakthrough: A chance arrest and the confessions of a boastful new recruit. Today, the special investigation team (SIT) probing the 5 September 2017 murder is preparing a 9,235-page additional charge sheet, which details the activities of an organized crime syndicate, and the role of a right-wing organization, which was critical of Lankesh’s anti-Hindutva views.
“He (K.T. Naveen Kumar) was very boastful. This became their undoing," said a senior investigating officer, requesting anonymity. A local gun runner and the first to be arrested in the sensational murder case, Kumar was one of the newest members of the “organized crime syndicate".
Though today’s criminals are more tech-savvy and use all available technology to communicate, coordinate and execute some of their sinister plans, the syndicate managed to run covert operations by using more “traditional" or “old-fashioned" methods, senior police officials said.
Even in the Lankesh murder, those involved were each assigned different roles, independent of the other, and ran aliases, besides rarely using the same cell phone for communication. The police too was, therefore, forced to go back to traditional methods of investigation to solve the case.
While the crime syndicate used unmarked country-made firearms, operated multiple rings, used couriers to communicate and deployed new recruits for different crimes, a pattern emerged, but one that was hard to link to the same person or organization. In fact, the SIT unearthed at least 38 targets of the syndicate and diaries that have initials and codes, but which were hard to decipher.
The SIT, in their report, said that Sanatan Sanstha, a Goa-based right-wing organization, is involved in the Lankesh murder—a charge vehemently denied by the latter. Ironically, the police had to mix traditional policing with several advanced technological methods such as artificial intelligence to solve the case.
Some law enforcement officials said that the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M.Kalburgi was also similar in style.
Former police officers say that though this generation of investigators are used to digital evidence, crime syndicates, too, have upped their game. “Having understood this, syndicates are resorting to traditional forms so that they do not leave a trail. They work from the point of view of a police officer and see what are the things I should do to avoid," S.T. Ramesh, former director general and inspector general of police, Karnataka, said. “They (crime syndicate) work backwards."