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Police Arrest Sobhraj in Goa Bar

April 7, 1986 GMT

BOMBAY, India (AP) _ Police said Monday they caught Charles Sobhraj, who is wanted in seven countries for murder and other crimes, while he sipped beer in the seaside resort of Goa to celebrate his 42nd birthday.

Sobhraj escaped from Tihar Prison in New Delhi, India’s top-security jail, with six other inmates March 16 after they fed drug-laced fruit and sweets to guards.

Authorities said the Vietnamese-born French citizen was captured Sunday night with his alleged British accomplice at the popular Coconut Tree beach cafe and bar. They said the Briton, David Hall, was not in jail and organized a fake ″birthday party″ at Tihar Prison during which the guards were drugged.

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The party was held in the warden’s office. The escape led to the arrests of seven prison officials, including deputy superintendent V.D. Pushkarna.

Sobhraj was carrying earrings for a girlfriend when arresting officers posed as customers approached him, police officials told a news conference Monday.

Suryakant S. Jog, chief of the Maharashtra state police in Bombay, said Sobhraj ″had fallen victim to his three vices: music, liquor and women.″

Jog said Inspector Madhukar Zende, who had arrested Sobhraj in Bombay in the early 1970s on car theft charges, walked up to the table and said, ″Hello, Charles, how are you? Is that David with you?″

″Have you gone crazy, man?″ he quoted Sobhraj as replying. ″You Indians do not know how to treat foreigners.″

While in Tihar, Sobhraj was awaiting extradition to Thailand, where he is accused of drugging and killing several foreign tourists.

He has escaped police custody in at least four countries and is wanted for crimes ranging from murder to car theft in Nepal, Singapore, Greece, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Turkey and Iran. He has been the subject of two books that became international best-sellers.

Gines Viegas, owner of the O’Coqueiro (Coconut Tree) restaurant in Goa, about 250 miles south of Bombay, said in a telephone interview that Sobhraj went quietly with the arresting officers.

″He didn’t resist. He didn’t say anything. He went quite coolly,″ Viegas said. His restaurant is a fashionable gathering place in Porvorim, near Panaji, capital of the former Portuguese enclave.

But Jog said that Sobhraj whipped out a revolver and was overpowered by half a dozen detectives.

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He said Sobhraj had disguised himself by discarding his eyeglasses, parting his hair differently and growing a beard and moustache.

The police chief said the breakthrough came March 29 when police arrested Ajay Singh Tomar, one of the Tihar escapees, when he tried to board a train in Bombay.

Under questioning, Tomar revealed that Sobhraj and three others were staying at a hotel in Panvel, about 30 miles east of Bombay, Jog said.

Police raided the hotel last Wednesday and arrested Dev K.M. Tyagi, who allegedly planned the jail break with Hall, Jog said, but Sobhraj already ahd left for Goa.

He said that, after escaping from the New Delhi jail, Sobhraj traveled by car, train and taxi through the desert state of Rajasthan and down through Gujarat state to Bombay.