- Back to black
March 16, 2013
Bond girl turned designer, Anouska Hempel, talks about her love for design.
- Defeating death with tempera
March 16, 2013
All his life Ganesh Pyne rebuffed fame and cheap popularity and burrowed deeper into his subconscious, the source of his haunting skeletal paintings.
- Movies don't inspire me. Life does
March 9, 2013
Dhulia talks about why his characters have shades of grey.
- In This Section
- Entire Website
From the Times Of India
- MOST POPULAR
The true Charles Sobhraj story
Bikini Killer. Serial killer. Mass murderer. These are the invariable adjectives used to describe you. Does it bother you?
Certainly, because it is all based on prejudice and without any evidence. Nepal is the only place where I was found guilty of murder and, given the rampant corruption in Nepal's judiciary - which its own chief justices have admitted - and the rot in the police force, it is clear that I was not given a fair trial. On the other hand, look at the Indian courts. While a lower court in India pronounced me guilty of murder, it was overturned on appeal and the court recognised the "victim" was a drug addict who died of an overdose. After I was released from Tihar and went to Paris (in 1997), the first couple of weeks were a little difficult due to all that publicity but then, it died down soon. Europe is different from Asia. There, if you are acquitted or have completed your term, you are accepted and your past is not dredged up again and again. It was only in 2003, when I was arrested in Nepal that the tamasha started. After my return to France in 1997, two newspapers had carried reports on me, calling me a serial killer. They mentioned the charges against me but "forgot" to add that I was always acquitted. I sued them and they had to settle quickly with compensations. After that, nobody tried to call me a serial killer again. But in Nepal, there's no respect for law and bribes are the only things that count. Though there was no evidence, the case went against me because I refused to pay bribes to judges, policemen and jailers. When I am out, I am going to make revelations that will shock everyone.
You acquired an unshakeable reputation as a serial killer mainly due to two books, which are treated as your authorised biographies, The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj by Richard Neville and Julie Clarke and Serpentine by Thomas Thompson. When you collaborated with the authors, didn't you think of the consequences?
Nepal's courts convicted me (of the murder of Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975) practically on the basis of the two books, neither of which is my authorised biography. No book, unless it's related to laws, can be accepted as evidence yet the prosecution tabled these books and even documentary films as so. Can you imagine, the sarkari lawyers spent five days during my appeal hearing in Supreme Court reading out excerpts from these books? And yet, they omitted the chapters on the murders in Nepal! It's incredible but the judges found nothing strange in it! This can happen only in Nepal!
I had nothing to do with Thompson, in fact, I met him only twice and that too in court. So I don't know how people can think Serpentine is my authorised biography. He obtained a signed document under false pretence from my Indian lawyer R Singh, saying he wanted to write some articles on me. But it was not signed by me and when I heard about the book, I wanted to sue him. It made Thompson change the names of all the characters in the book and later, though Paramount signed a $1 million contract with him to make a movie based on the book, they backed out after my lawyers pointed out that it was a disputed book. Thompson died of cancer about one and a half years later. When he wrote the book he was already diagnosed with cancer. I think that made him reckless, he realised he wouldn't have to face the consequences.
When I was released from Tihar and tried getting an injunction on Serpentine, I found the US laws required the deposit of a bond for $50, 000 and I didn't have that kind of money. Later, when I had the money there were so many other things I was caught up in that I just didn't have the time.
As for Richard and Julie, though they came to meet me in Tihar Jail, their book was not authorised either. They knew I was a bestseller subject and many of the things they wrote were not true. They knew that and went underground after I was released. From there, they sent me apologies and then asked a relative of Clarke's, who worked for a London newspaper, to mediate. I hadn't then understood the repercussions the book would have.
So what is the true Charles Sobhraj story then?
It will come out when I am released. My partners in Europe have negotiated deals for interviews and films in Europe and the US and parties in India and Bollywood are also interested for rights in Asia. I have been getting reports about some current Bollywood directors saying that they were making films on me. My lawyers have told them that it would be illegal to do so without my permission. I am willing to discuss the issue but the script has to be approved of by me and the cast has to have people of stature.
In the past, Aamir Khan was to have played the lead in a film based on my life that had my approval. He came down to Paris twice to meet me and I gave the project my blessings. Unfortunately, they couldn't start shooting immediately because of Aamir's packed schedule and I refused to extend the contract period.
I like the idea of a film with a sequel, the sequel being devoted to the appalling corruption in Nepal, including the prison. The Indian authorities should sit up and take notice. India does so many things for Nepal and yet Indian prisoners are the worst treated, like pariahs.
A poor man died about six months ago and his meagre belongings and the little money he had saved simply vanished. What's worse, his family has not even been notified even months after his death. The same thing happened with a black man (sic) recently. It's like that with prisoners who don't have embassies here or whose embassies don't care for them. The Indian Embassy never tries to help its own men who are inside Nepal's prisons. And it's not that they are all poor men or drug sellers. There are businessmen and jewellers too.
The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj predicted your jail break from Tihar in the 80s. If books are prophetic, what about the latest potboiler on you, Farrukh Dhondy's The Bikini Murders which ends with your daughter visiting you in prison and giving you your just deserts?
Farrukh and I have known each other for a long time and many of the things he has written in his book, though it's so badly written, are true. But the end is purely his own creation. I protect my family. None of my family members ever came to Kathmandu all these seven years because I want to keep them away from the media. The only person who has been in the eye of the storm has been Nihita (Sobhraj's Nepali fiancêe, 44 years his junior). I had asked her to stay away from the prison, fearing for her safety. She and her family have received threats. Attempts have been made to kidnap her while coming to see me in prison. But she is very headstrong and I can't make her listen to me.
You have been saying that you were actually tried and convicted by the media.
Absolutely. Bronzich's body was found in December 1975. Yet police compiled an investigation report after speaking to people who found the body only in August 1976. Don't you think that is extraordinary ? They did so only after the Navbharat Times carried a report on my arrest in India in 1976. The report gave Nepal police and others the idea of framing me and they formulated charges and forged documents accordingly.
And then, in 2004, a Nepali local paper said I had tried to stage a jailbreak but it was detected by police. Isn't it ludicrous? Had I wanted to escape, I could have done that a long time back. In fact, when another Nepali daily carried my photo in 2003, which led to my eventual arrest, the people with whom I was doing business negotiations asked me to leave Nepal immediately. Go to India, they told me, and we can continue the talks there. But I refused because I had nothing on my conscience. I was also using my original passport and name. Do I look stupid? Would I have done that had I committed a crime in Nepal and fled?
But the media won't stop to think. A paper wrote something about me, another one took it up and then it became the gospel truth. Had I done all the crimes I am accused of, do you think the French government would have allowed me to come back to Paris and remain outside prison?
What are your immediate plans after release?
I will have to wait for a couple of days for the Nepal immigration authorities to return my passport. There are negotiations with TV channels to follow me around during these last few days in Nepal and conduct interviews. The cameras would also act as a kind of security for me since I don't trust Nepal police. After that I leave for Paris and look forward to seeing my little daughter. I missed seven important years with her and that is something I am never going to forgive the Nepal police for.
What if you are not acquitted?
I refuse to even consider that possibility. There is absolutely no evidence against me.
Sometimes even the impossible can happen.
The verdict can then be referred to a full bench of judges. Also, the UN Human Rights Commission has taken up my complaint of injustice and violation of rights in Nepal.
Register for Full Access to the Crest Edition
Don't have a Facebook Account? Sign up for Times Crest here.