One of the two men detained by the Thane police earlier this month with 8.86 kg of depleted uranium (DU) has claimed he was into ship-breaking and got the radioactive material from a scrapped Air India aircraft he had purchased through his contacts in the industry. The police are verifying Kishore Prajapati’s claims, saying they plan to corroborate his claims by examining relevant paperwork and other details.
“Prajapati told us he was into ship-breaking and that it is their ancestral profession. He said they acquire ships, take them apart and resell the parts. He claimed 10-12 years ago, he had purchased a scrapped Air India plane. While taking it apart, he claimed he found the uranium in its wings,” said DCP Parag Manere.
“He got it tested at a lab in 2014, which confirmed it to be Depleted Uranium. He then decided to sell it in the black market at a high price,” he added.
Besides Prajapati, the police have detained another person, Saifullah Khan, in the case. According to the police, Prajapati was the one with access to the uranium, while Khan’s job was to scout for a buyer.
Prajapati, a resident of Central Mumbai, is named as one of the directors in an unlisted company located at Darukhana on Reay Road. Details of the company on the web claim it deals with manufacturing metals and chemicals and associated products.
The radioactive material was seized and the two men detained when Inspector Ravindra Doiphone of the Thane police’s anti-chain-snatching squad received a tip-off that Khan and Prajapati were on the lookout for a buyer for an unusual metal.
A chemical analysis has indicated the uranium may have been sourced from outside India, with sources indicating it might have been brought in from a Gulf country. Khan and Prajapati intended to sell it at Rs 3 crore per kg — bringing the value of the total seizure to over Rs 24 crore.
Owing to its very-high density, DU has civilian uses such as counterweights in aircraft, radiation shielding in medical radiation therapy and containers for transporting radioactive materials. Its military uses include armour-plating and armour-piercing projectiles.
“One needs permission from the Atomic Energy Commission to use it. They did not have the permission,” said Joint Commissioner of Police Ashutosh Dumbhare. The police are still waiting for a report from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre on the DU samples sent to it.