Known as ‘Pimpri Goldman’, Phuge was attacked with a sickle, swords, knives and rods and then bludgeoned to death with large stones near Dighi here on Friday morning, shocking Pune, particularly its wealthy lot.
Moving swiftly, police apprehended five of the accused, all youths, based on the statement of the victim’s 21-year old son Shubham D. Phuge. Another four persons are absconding.
The five are Amol alias Balli K. Pathare, 24, Shailesh S. Walke, 26, Vishal D. Parkhe, 32, Nivrutti alias Balukishan Walke, 35 and Pramod S. Dholpuria, 23. Among those on the run is the alleged prime conspirator Mohite.
According to police, around 10 p.m. on Thursday night, one of the prime accused, Atul Mohite, gave a reminder call to Shubham asking him to bring his father for a friend’s birthday party.
Mohite also told Shubham to pick up 10 parcel biryanis and two cigarette packets en route to the party, the investigations said.
Shubham conveyed the message to his father and went to pick up the food parcels in his car with a friend Rohan Panchal.
When they came to the appointed party spot, they saw that Mohite and others were attacking his father. He stopped his car and started screaming for help.
But it was too late. A profusely bleeding and hideously mangled Phuge had borne the brunt of the brutal attack and was breathing his last in that isolated spot.
Stunned by the turn of events, Shubham and Panchal called the police control and informed them even as Mohite and around 10 others sneaked out of there in the darkness.
Later, Shubham and Panchal, the main witnesses to the sensational crime, lodged a complaint with police. Phuge’s wife Seema, a former municipal corporator, also reached the spot.
Investigations revealed that the motive behind the heinous crime was the Rs.150,000 Phuge was to return to the accused.
Given his penchant for a flashy lifestyle, Phuge usually moved around with armed private bodyguards. It is not clear why they were not with him that fateful night.
In late 2012, Phuge shot into the limelight after he stitched an opulent Rs.10 million 22-carat pure gold shirt which came decorated with six glittering Swarovski crystal buttons and an accompanying flashy gold belt in a matching design.
Besides his primary business of lending money, he ran the Vakratund Chit Fund Pvt Ltd with his wife. There had been complaints of financial misappropriation against him in recent times.
His golden shirt was billed the most expensive shirt in the world, weighing around 3.5 kg pure gold and stitched by Ranka Jewellers of Pune.
The shirt had over 14,000 gold flowers intertwined with 100,000-plus spangles sewn on a base of fine velvet. It was said to be comfortable and easy to wear — like normal clothes.