The inside story of the Mephedrone case in Pune

Pune: If the year 2019 saw the highest, a total of 119 cases pertaining to narcotics substances and arrested 157 persons in the city, the Covid induced lockdown did not prevent trafficking of contraband items as the Pune police continued with their action with 57 arrests this year between June and January.

What made the headlines for the most part of the year, however, was busting of a racket by neighbouring Pimpri-Chinchwad Police.

The seizure of 20kg mephedrone (MD) in Chakan by Pimpri-Chinchwad police in October led to the exposure of a nexus of producers, distributors and transporters who were involved in the production and sale of MD weighing at least 150kg. With 21 arrests and seizure of over Rs 1 crore in cash, the roles of the people are becoming clearer.

A case under Sections 8(c) with 21(c), 22(c), and 29 of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 was registered at the Chakan police station of Pimpri-Chinchwad police.

The operation is found by the police to be a brainchild of Tushar Suryakant Kale (42), a resident of Borivali (west) in Mumbai and a native of Karveer in Kolhapur. However, before the operation took the shape that was found by the police, it went through various trials which went undetected by the authorities.

Kale joined the Chota Rajan gang. He was in jail in a murder case. After his release, he started multiple legal businesses, but soon was indebted. Kale met a contact he had made in jail – Chandrakant Shedge – who lent him money and planted the first seeds of MD business. Shedge put him in touch with the Nigerian national who is known in this case as Zuby, according to the police.

The Nigerian national promised funding and a direction towards gaining logistical support.

“The Nigerian gave him the contact of a man named Bhanudas More, lodged in Thane jail in a drug case. When More was brought for court dates, Kale pretended to be a family member and met him. That is when More gave him potential names for support like raw material, transport, equipment. With the knowledge and contacts, Kale first tried his hand in Mahad and then the likes of Palande, Arvindkumar, and Jogal came in,” said senior police inspector Balkrushna Kadam of Hinjewadi police station who is investigating the case.

The drug production got a boost with the presence of Arvindkumar Lohare also referred to as “doctor” entered the picture. He helped Kale and Khanivadekar and few others learn the process of making MD and allegedly charged Rs 35 lakh for a short course.

RENT PER KG

Once the technique was learned, Kiran Rajguru put Kale in touch with the owner of a factory in Ranjangaon and came up with a rent system of rent per kg of the product instead of rent per month, according to advocate Shishir Hiray, special public prosecutor (SPP) in the case.

The factory was identified as Sanyog Biotech and the owner was identified as Ashok Sapkale. Sapkale is one of the four people who have applied for bail in the case on grounds of being unaware of the contents of the production.

However, on Tuesday, SPP Hiray opposed the bail application in a court in Khed and said that the owner of the factory was well aware of what was happening and earned a handsome profit from it.

UNION OF RAKESH ALIAS ROCKY AND TUSHARE KALE

Rakesh Khanivadekar alias Rocky and Tushar Kale’s association is suspected to have begun in 2017.

Khanivadekar and his brother, who is not named in this case, are involved in various kinds of illegal drug trade, according to the police. Rocky had been earlier arrested by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in a case registered in Palghar after a raid in a Palghar-based factory led to seizure of 483kg of narcotic substance called ephedrine.

Anil Patil, who is the latest arrest in the case, had helped Kale secure bail in a case registered against him in Igatpuri, Nashik in which Lohare was also booked.

THE MONEY TRAIL

The police have seized cash worth upwards of Rs 1 crore in cash alone.

After Kale’s arrest, Rs 60 lakh in cash from Khanivadekar’s possession and Rs 25 lakh from Kale’s possession were seized by the police from their various whereabouts.

On Monday, Rs 25 lakh in cash were seized from Lalit Patil from his house in Nashik. The cash recovered by the police is suspected to be the remnant of the Rs 65 lakh cash that was provided by chemist Lohare, Afzal Hussain Abbas Sunsara, and Manoj Palande, according to the police. The money was meant to rally lawyers and settlement for these arrested men.

The police have sealed multiple locations including Sanyog Biotech in Ranjangaon MIDC, Alkemi industry and Nimbus Pharma in Mahad MIDC owned by three of the accused.

The police have seized real estate ownership related papers from some of the accused and plan to seal them too.

“Kale had defaulted on his payment for the drugs. He was supposed to have paid Rs 2.4 crore but had made payments of only Rs 65-67lakh. The money was paid to Kiran Kale (Rs 30lakh), Chetan Fakkad Dandavate (Rs 14 lakh), Sankpale (Rs 7lakh), and one other person (Rs 14 lakh),” said senior police inspector Sawant.

How did the racket land on police radar?

The case first landed on police radar after a truck carrying 20kg MD was seized in Chakan on October 7.

The 20kg substance was meant for sale to people from Delhi and was found in a Volkswagen car registered in Pune.

These were drugs that were remaining from the batch of 132kg MD that produced just before lockdown was announced.

The people who owed the money held onto the drugs as Kale cut contact with them and decided to sell it to a buyer from Delhi. During that sale, the police nabbed the car.

“We have to ensure that Maharashtra does not turn into Udta Maharashtra like Udta Punjab. To make that happen, we have to act tough. Section 37 of NDPS demands that no such activity should be tolerated and it makes bail difficult too. The case is definitely complicated but there is enough evidence to get conviction. Moreover, the investigation is still underway and more evidence will be collected,” said Advocate Shishir Hiray, special public prosecutor in the case.

ARRESTED SO FAR

Arrested on October 8

-Chetan Fakkad Dandavate (28)

-Anandgir Madhugir Gosavi (25)

-Akshay Shivaji Kale (25)

-Sanjeevkumar Bansiraut (44)

-Tousif Hasan MOhammad Taslim (31)

Arrested on October 10

-Kiran Machindra Kale (32)

-Ashok Balasaheb Sankpal (37)

-Kiran Dinkar Rajguru (32)

Arrested on October 12

-Kuldeep Suresh Indalkar (36)

-Jubair Rashid Mulla (39)

Arrested on October 16

-Tushar Suryakant Kale (42)

-Hrushikesh Rajesh Mishra (25)

-Zuby Ifeanyi Udoka alias Francis AZubuike Okpala (41)

-Rakesh Shrikant Kanivadekar (32)

Arrested on November 24

-Parshuram Bhalchandra Jogal (44)

Arrested on November 25

-Mandar Baliram Bhosale (49)

-Ram Manoharlal Gurbani (43)

Arrested on December 5

-Arvindkumar Prakashchand Lohare (39)

-Manoj Eknath Palande (40)

-Afzal Hussain Abbas Sunsara (52)

Arrested on December 21

-Lalit Anil Patil (32)

PUNE CASES

In 2019, Pune police had registered 119 cases, arrested 157 accused, and seized nearly 3 crores of narcotics substances which was highest in last 10 years.

In 2020 (between January to June), Pune police registered total 41 cases under in which 59 accused (2 Nigerians) were arrested including seizure of 150kg ganja, 69gms MD, 112gms charas, 368gms cocaine, totalling worth Rs 40 lakh.

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