A day after a Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) team arrested two Nigerian nationals and seized nearly two tonnes of drugs from their rented home in Greater Noida, the house owner, who is an IPS officer, has claimed that he did not get the mandatory tenant verification done by local police because “it is the duty of the property dealer”.
On Saturday, the NCB team arrested Henry Ideofor (35) and Chimando Okora (30) from the house owned by Devendra P N Pandey, an IPS officer posted as an SP in the Economic Offences Wing of UP Police.
The NCB also seized over 1,818 kg of pseudoephedrine and 1.9 kg of cocaine from the house, calling it the “biggest ever seizure of pseudoephedrine outside factory premises”.
On Sunday, asked why the police verification of his tenants was not done, Pandey told The Indian Express: “It is the duty of the property dealer to get police verification done. I gave all documents needed for police verification to the dealer but he did not get it done. Also, he never told me that police verification was not done. He gave me the impression that all formalities were completed.”
Asked how his house was used for an illegal operation of this magnitude, Pandey said: “I rented my house through a local property dealer, Gaurav, around three years ago. The rent was Rs 24,000 a month. For the last one year, the tenant was not paying the rent regularly. The tenant also stopped paying the electricity bill. In October last year, I sent a notice to the tenant asking to deposit pending dues and vacate the house at the earliest.”
Pandey claimed he had informed the dealer about the irregular rent payment. “After speaking to the tenant, Gaurav told me they would vacate my house soon and pay pending dues soon,” he said.
Residents in the locality said the house had turned into a virtual “fortress” after the Nigerian nationals started renting it. Gajraj Singh (55), who runs a grocery shop nearby, claimed: “They had installed two CCTV cameras and kept the gate shut. We saw them occasionally when they came to the shop to buy eggs, bread and water. Last month, I saw the electricity bill outside the gate. It had not been paid for months.”
Singh claimed that he had informed Pandey and the property dealer about the unpaid bills and his concerns over the tenants’ activities. “Pandey said I should ask them to pay the bills and vacate the house. I told this to the male tenant and he said he will speak with the owner,” Singh said.
On Thursday, around 10 am, Singh said five plainclothes officers, including one woman, reached the location and asked him about the house. He said he told the officers he knew the tenants and went with them to the house.
“When the male tenant came to the gate, I told him that the officers were friends of Pandey and wanted to see the house. He opened the gate and the officers lunged forward to arrest him. He was a tall and strong man, and it took five of them to control him,” he said.
Eyewitnesses claimed the other tenant, a woman, was arrested from the terrace of the house next door as she was trying to evade police. Kavita Devi (45), Singh’s wife, said, “We were watching as she took the mobile phone SIM out, put it inside her mouth and threw the phone away. But the officers surrounded her and she gave up.”
Singh said it took 10 hours to complete the operation. “Canisters, packaging machinery, powder and some chemicals were recovered from the basement. The stench from the chemicals was so strong that you couldn’t stay inside for more than a few minutes,” he said.
Noida Police said they would probe how such a large quantity came to be stored inside the house, and why tenant verification was not done.
When contacted, the broker, Gaurav Kumar (31), claimed the house was rented out to two men in 2015 and that he had got tenant verification done from local police. He said he could not recall the police station. “The tenants got my number from their friends living on rent nearby. I did get their verification done from local police, but not from FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office) because I thought this service was not available then. It is possible that I might or might not have told the owner that I got the tenants verified from local police,” he claimed.
But SP (Rural) Gautam Budh Nagar Vineet Jaiswal said the tenant verification had not been done. Gaurav also claimed Pandey had asked him to “recover the pending rent and electricity dues from tenants before asking them to vacate the house”.
Pandey, when told of Gaurav’s claims, said, “Maybe he got the verification done but he never gave me any papers… I was in touch with the tenants over WhatsApp because an electricity bill of Rs 2.73 lakh was pending. On creating pressure, they paid around Rs 50,000. I was in touch with them to ensure they paid the remaining amount,” Pandey said.