Udupi: September 5, 2015: He is a one-of-a-kind thief with brains, who has argued his own cases (and won!) many times; his first theft dates back to 1966 and till now he has looted hundreds of temples.
Having fallen into the police net again, he is currently facing a minimum of 200 cases. Meet 68-year-old Nagaraj alias Khoja Nagaraj. His modus operandi is unique. He visits a temple and observes the priest and the ornaments. He returns the next day in an attire similar to the priest’s, recites Sanskrit hymns, donates between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 and stays back even after the last devotee leaves.
Impressed, the priest befriends him. Nagaraj continues to visit the temple for a few days and even stays the night at the temple, getting down to performing the pooja at times. And when the priest is away, he strikes, looting the temple and escaping.
His excellent knowledge of the IPC has helped him argue many a case for himself, without a public prosecutor.
Muslim by birth, he was given the name Pakhiza by his father, Mallegowda, and he grew up in KG Halli. He began looting gold jewellery from temples across Karnataka nearly 50 years ago at the age of 15, claiming his thievery was to help the poor and unfortunate.
He soon acquired the nickname ’Khoja’ Nagaraj because of his association with transsexuals. He is known for having stolen from many famous temples including Udupi Krishna mutt and other renowned temples.
On August 19, Nagaraj reportedly stole jewellery from Amba Maheshwari temple which was recorded on the CCTVs there. The police had launched a hunt for him and finally nabbed him a few days ago and recovered a gold mangalsutra weighing 221 gms.
Before turning into a thief, Nagaraj had been a shepherd. He reportedly told cops that he even tried to loot the famous temple at Tirupati-Tirumala but gave up because of tight security. It would have been too time-consuming and tedious a task, he told officers.