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Victoria Police says Rs 57 lakh reward for return of Indian fugitive important for ensuring justice (Update: Reward)

Melbourne/New Delhi, Aug.7 (ANI): Police in Victoria, Australia, today said that announcing a Rs.57 lakh reward to anyone providing information leading to the location, arrest and subsequent return to Victoria of Mr Puneet Puneet, the absconding Indian fugitive, was an important forward step to ensure that justice was delivered to the family of 19-year-old student Dean Hofstee, who was killed in an accident in 2008.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton said: “Our initial investigation resulted in Puneet being charged with extremely serious criminal offences. We want Puneet to have his day in court.”

“We believe that there are people in Australia and India who can provide information in relation to Puneet’s whereabouts,” he said.

He added: “Puneet’s actions caused the victim’s families a lot of anguish. We ask that anyone with any piece of information, no matter how small or insignificant, to contact police or Crime Stoppers.”

In New Delhi, The Australian High Commissioner to India Peter Varghese today welcomed the announcement by the Victorian Government of a 57 lakh rupees reward for information.

Puneet was born on 7 January 1989 in Chandigarh. He was charged with culpable driving and negligently causing serious injury following a collision in Melbourne on 1 October 2008 which resulted in the death of Mr Dean Hofstee, a 19 year-old student.

Hofstee was walking with his friend Mr Clancy Coker when they were struck by a vehicle being driven by Puneet. Both suffered serious injuries. Coker survived but Hofstee died at the scene.

Experts estimate at the time of the accident Puneet was driving at 148 km/h in a 60km/h zone. Puneet’s blood alcohol reading was 0.165: more than three times the legal limit for a fully licensed driver and as a learner driver it should have been zero.

Puneet was granted bail on strict conditions, including the surrender of his Indian passport but failed to attend his August 2009 court hearing in Melbourne.

Authorities later discovered Puneet left Australia on 12 June 2009 using the passport of another Indian student, Sukhcharanjit Singh. In March 2011, Singh pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice. Singh was convicted and sentenced to 2.5 years imprisonment.

The Victorian Government has offered approximately 57 lakh rupees (AUD100,000) reward for information which leads to Puneet’s location, apprehension and subsequent return to Victoria. Puneet is believed to be living in India although his exact whereabouts are unknown.

The Australian Federal Police based in New Delhi have been working with the Central Bureau of Investigation in relation to this case. The reward offered by the Victorian Government will support efforts by Indian authorities to locate and apprehend Puneet. (ANI)