Two held with smuggled depleted uranium in Mumbai

Over 8-kg haul valued at Rs 24 crore, say Thane police

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Thane | Updated: December 22, 2016 12:30:51 pm

THE THANE police seized 8.861 kilograms of depleted uranium (DU) from two persons in Thane earlier this month. According to a report from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), the uranium was sourced from outside India, with police sources indicating it could have been brought in from a Gulf country.

WATCH | Two held with depleted uranium

Thane police investigators claim the two detained people intended to sell it at Rs 3 crore per kg, pegging the value of the seizure at over Rs 24 crore. Owing to its very high density, DU has civilian uses in, for example, 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.

Joint Commissioner of Police Ashutosh Dumbhare said, “We have received a report from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) that the material is depleted uranium with around 0.3 per cent content of the fissile isotope U-235. It is radioactive and can be used for both military and civil applications.” He added, “The BARC report also states that this DU sample does not belong to India. We suspect it has been used once abroad, after which it was smuggled to the country. The two persons from whom the uranium was seized will be booked under the Atomic Energy Act of 1962.”

The detention and seizure took place earlier this month when Inspector Ravindra Doiphone of the Thane police’s anti-chain snatching squad received a tip-off that two people, businessman Saifullah Khan and owner of a scrap dealing unit Kishore Prajapati, were on the lookout for a buyer for an unusual metal.

An investigation yielded information that the metal was actually uranium.

“After consultations, we decided to send our policemen as decoys to see if they actually had uranium as they were claiming,” said DCP Parag Manere. An officer “fluent in English” was sent to negotiate. The meeting between the two accused, who belong to Mumbai, and the undercover policeman took place in a five star hotel in Mumbai. The duo reportedly asked for the payment for the consignment to be made in gold biscuits.

At the meeting, the decoy officer was told the cost of the uranium would be Rs 3 crore per kg. The policeman agreed to pay for a small amount as a sample.Watch What Else is Making News

As soon as they got the initial batch, the police sent it to BARC for tests.

The BARC report confirmed it to be DU from outside the country. The police then asked the duo to get another batch of the material. When the package arrived, the two were detained.

“We are still trying to find out how the duo got access to the uranium. This uranium has already been used abroad and then brought in. It appears that the person may have access to some installation, using which they got delivery of the used uranium. The other way could be that one of them may have links to some military application. We are interrogating them and in the next few days it should be clear as to how they got access to the uranium,” said an officer linked to the probe.

“One needs to have permission from the Atomic Energy Commission to use it. They did not have any such permission,” said Dumbhare.

According to another officer, several Western countries that used the material in weaponry have stopped using it following several studies that pointed to the negative impact of DU on health. Former Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar said, “Depleted uranium is not very dangerous and is more used for its high density. I do not think it should fetch any high value.”


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