March 29, 2020
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Sign of the times; Capital move; Hooda hoop; No flow area; It's where the village road forks

Guns In A Grease Barrel

The catch was big enough for the usually reticent top brass of the Mumbai police to appear in full strength for photo-ops last weekend but the whole story of the sensational Rs 1-crore arms haul will take a while to unravel. Cleverly packed in one of the 20 barrels of industrial grease imported by a biotech and poultry-food company were 34 Webley Colt and Wesson revolvers, three powerful pistols, a silencer and some 1,283 rounds of ammunition. The exporter: allegedly Bharat Nepali, a trusted aide of underworld don, Chhota Rajan.

That the sophisticated, foreign-made arms and ammunition came from Bangkok, one of the locations from where Rajan now operates, has its own significance for Crime Branch sleuths. With the Dawood Ibrahim gang recently renewing its extortion activities, the consignment has raised fears of inter-gang rivalries spilling blood on Mumbai’s streets once again. The Chhota Shakeel faction’s (D-gang) butchering of Balu Dokre, another key Rajan aide, on Kuala Lumpur’s streets less than 36 hours after the arms consignment was confiscated at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Mumbai has only underscored the possibility.

The arrest of shipping agent Mukund Patel from a bar in suburban Mumbai has raised another set of questions. The Crime Branch continued with its interrogation of the importer well into the week. Reports have it that eight containers, each with several barrels, were addressed to the agro-biotech firm; four of them were received while the Customs and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) detained the fifth on suspicion and had it scanned in its hi-tech X-ray facility. The other three containers are reportedly missing. Top cops have refused to reveal the likely use of such a consignment but there’s already a bitter war between them and the dri to claim credit for one of the largest arms seizures in recent times.

By Smruti Koppikar

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