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Trader held in Palika,police point at Naxal link

An inter-state racket that supplied sophisticated gadgets to Maoists in Jharkhand from the national capital has been busted with the arrest of a Delhi businessman and four others in Ranchi and seizure of a huge consignment of gadgets,the police said on Wednesday.

An inter-state racket that supplied sophisticated gadgets to Maoists in Jharkhand from the national capital has been busted with the arrest of a Delhi businessman and four others in Ranchi and seizure of a huge consignment of gadgets,the police said on Wednesday.

All five were arrested on Tuesday,with Delhi businessman Praveen Sharma’s arrest coming late in the night,allegedly following a tip-off from Ranchi police. The Special Cell arrested Sharma,50,from the underground market in Connaught Place and claimed he supplied “prohibited equipment” to the Naxals.

According to Delhi Police,Sharma supplied electronic support like walkie-talkies,radio wireless sets,recorders,and world band receivers and transistors to Naxals in Jharkhand by air. The police said he had sent two consignments to Ranchi this month — the second one on July 11 through an Air India domestic cargo (IC-809).

Addressed to his “links” in Ranchi,the consignment was reportedly meant for the Naxals.

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The four arrested in Ranchi have been identified as Naresh Sharma (owner of a construction company in Jharkhand and Delhi trader Praveen Sharma’s alleged Ranchi “link”),Ashish Sharma,Robin Samar and Praveen Sharma. Ranchi police said one bulletproof jacket,66 walkie-talkies,60 headphones and as many chargers,50 Chinese-made batteries,two world band radios and other equipment were recovered.

On Wednesday,Delhi Police claimed Sharma owns a shop in Palika Bazar. “We are trying to know if he supplied arms and ammunition to Naxals through this construction company (in Ranchi),” a police source said.

Delhi Police Commissioner Y S Dadwal said,“Sharma is not a Naxalite. His involvement was completely commercial — he procured prohibited equipment for operational purposes.”

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Special Cell officers said Sharma lives in Preet Vihar,East Delhi,and runs an electronic equipment shop (M-12) in Palika Bazar. But Palika Bazar Shopkeepers Welfare Association secretary Kamal Jeet Rai claimed no one by that name owns or ever ran a shop in Palika Bazar. He claimed the police did not even arrest him from inside the market.

“This shop (M-12) belongs to one Avtar Singh; he has nothing to do with the arrested person. No one called Praveen Sharma has ever been allotted any shop here by the NDMC,” Rai said. “The person they are talking about (Sharma) has been arrested from outside the market.”

IGI: Consignment cleared
While police sources said the consignment of electronic goods was meant for the banned Maoists and was cleared in the security check at IGI Airport,airport officials said electronic items are not banned in flights.  

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An Air India spokesperson in Delhi said,“Security personnel manning the X-ray machine did not report any anomaly in this specific consignment. So it was cleared for Ranchi.”

Another airport official said,“Carrying electronic goods as cargo consignments is a standard practice in all airlines.”

Meanwhile,civil judge Monika Saroha sent Sharma to one-day judicial custody on Wednesday. Police officers said their counterparts in Ranchi have sought Sharma’s custody.

Ranchi: confession
In Ranchi,Senior Superintendent of Police Naveen Singh said,“Naresh Sharma has confessed that he had procured these items at the diktat and demand of the Maoists.”

Naresh,manager of a firm called Shekhar Construction Company in Ranchi,had procured the electronic goods from Praveen Sharma in Delhi. The consignment allegedly sent by the Delhi trader was marked in the name of Ashish Sharma and Robin Samar (among the four held in Ranchi on Tuesday),Ranchi police officials said. They work for Naresh’s construction company,officers said.

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An FIR registered at Chutia police station in Ranchi says Naresh and Praveen Sharma (not relatives,it points out) had business dealings for quite some time.

Naresh’s company was engaged in at least two mega-projects in Palamau,Jharkhand: construction of a Rs 50-crore bridge over Amanat river,and a road between Daltongunj and Panki with a project cost of Rs 75 crore.

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According to Jharkhand police,Maoists extort from every firm working in the area — the rate of ransom,they said,varies between 20 and 25 per cent of the total project cost.

According to a Ranchi police officer,the Maoists had sought the gadgets from Sharma instead of money.

(With inputs from Nikhil Bhagi)

First published on: 16-07-2009 at 12:43:13 am
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