Acting on a tip-off, forest officials detained a taxi driver of Prabhas Patan over suspicion of smuggling two Asiatic lion cubs late on Saturday evening. Afzal Mugal was caught near Veraval during a check by the forest officers of Junagadh wildlife circle. After grilling him for long, he was released as the officers failed to get any concrete information about the alleged smuggling.
“There was an input that Mugal had a farmhouse where a lioness had delivered two cubs. The taxi driver had stolen them and was in process of selling the cubs to somebody in Mumbai for Rs 8 lakh. However, the driver claimed that he had ‘cooked up’ the story while dropping a tourist from Sasan to Diu airport and that he was innocent. After nothing suspicious was found, he was released,” said Aniruddh Pratap Singh, chief conservator of forests (CCF) of Junagadh wildlife circle. Forest officers said that the input had come from Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) via the state government.
“The informer had come to know about the matter while travelling in Mugal’s taxi and passed on the message to the PMO,” said a forest officer close to the development. The officer added that the informer had visited Sasan twice and went on safaris. However, he had not spotted any lion during the visits. He causally complained about it to the taxi driver while on way to Diu airport for catching a flight back home. It was during this ride that Mugal started boasting about having a farm, lions visiting them etc, said the officer. The CCF of Junagadh further said that no offence was registered against Mugal.