Arrest of 2 with 8 kg uranium: Accused claim they got uranium from plane scrap

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | Published:December 23, 2016 1:00 am

THE TWO men detained by the Thane police with over 8 kg of Depleted Uranium (DU) earlier this month have told investigators they got the radioactive material from the scrap of an aeroplane. As DU is known to be used in making counterweights in aircraft, the police are verifying their claims.

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The police said Saifullah Khan, one of the two men detained, had also told them of his association with the mining industry in recent years. The police are probing if he managed to lay hands on the uranium through his links in the mining industry.

“During questioning, Khan told us he lived in Lucknow and had come to the city nearly seven months ago. He claimed he had been working in the mining sector for the past few years but hasn’t told us what his role was in specific,” said an officer associated with the probe.

“We are probing if he procured the DU through his contacts in the mining industry,” he added.

Kishore Prajapati, the other suspect and a resident of Central Mumbai, meanwhile, is named as one of the directors in an unlisted company located at Darukhana on Reay Road. Details of the company on the web claims it deals with manufacturing metals and chemicals and associated products. The police said Prajapati and Khan got to know each other through common business interests.

“So far, the two have claimed the uranium had been sold to them as scrap from a dismantled aeroplane. They then decided to sell it for a profit. We are still awaiting a detailed report from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) that will give us further clarity on the seized material,” said Commissioner of Police (Thane) Param Bir Singh. “Though it is depleted, the uranium can be used in an Improvised Explosive Device as shrapnel, something that can have disastrous consequences given its density.”

The radioactive material weighing 8.861 kg was seized and the two men detained earlier this month 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 report 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 any such permission,” said Joint Commissioner of Police Ashutosh Dumbhare.

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