Murder of an American model: Indian police in Prague to bring back defendants from Gujarat

INDIAN police are in Prague to extradite a man accused of involvement in the murder of an American model in the South Asian country 17 years ago.

Representative image: iStock

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

Leona Swiderski, 33, who arrived in Mumbai in February 2003, was due to marry her fiancé Pragnesh Desai, but was found dead on a highway near the city the following day.

Police believe Desai plotted his murder to claim his $1million (£800,000) insurance and hired three hitmen, including his childhood friend Vipul Patel, to take him down.

The inquest found Desai paid Patel some $66,666 (£53,009) to kill Swiderski.

However, a court in Thane, a city adjacent to Mumbai, acquitted Desai and Patel.

The case was reopened following a request from the United States.

Swiderski disappeared shortly after landing at Mumbai airport, police inspector Sanjay Hazare told the Hindustan Times.

“Desai claimed that he had filed a missing person report. The following day, February 9, 2003, we found Leona’s body by the roadside in Kashimira on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad trunk road.

While Desai currently lives in Vadodara in the western state of Gujarat, Patel has managed to reach the Czech Republic. Two other defendants fled.

India has secured Interpol assistance for Patel’s extradition and a four-member police team is expected to bring him back on Friday (27).

Patel and Desai would appear in court, the officer involved in the investigation told the newspaper.

Berta D. Wells