Evicted from the Mumbai Port Trust earlier this year and unsafe in Sewris Hay Bunder,the cargo of cigarettes seized from the suspect dhow MSV Yusufi in April,has found a home in a temple in the compound of Yellow Gate police station in south Mumbai. With part of the cargo stolen,three constables now sit on guard inside the temple,ensuring the seized contraband remains in custody.
More than 450 cartons of Gudang Garam cigarettes,electronics and 32 live goats were found aboard the dhow on April 3,when it was intercepted after the Coast Guard caught snatches of conversation that the crew was having on the banned Thuraya satellite phone with its handler,the police said. The Thuraya was banned in India and Indian waters in 2008 after it was found to have been used by Pakistani terrorists who orchestrated the 26/11 attack to communicate with their handler.
The police arrested four crew members,who claimed to have thrown the satellite phone into the sea after the Coast Guard zeroed in on them. They allegedly told the police that they had set sail from Dubai and were headed to Sri Lanka to sell the cargo. The dhows handler,Dongri-based livestock businessman Usman Ghanchi,was later arrested. All the accused are now out on bail. The goats were put to sleep in July at the Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals since they had been transported without requisite health certificates and posed the risk of spreading infection.
Following the seizure,both the vessel,valued at Rs 50 lakh and the cargo worth Rs 7.5 crore was berthed inside the Mumbai Port Trust until the police were asked to shift the vessel out in July.
MbPT is a commercial establishment and demanded that we pay them to use their waters. We had to move the vessel to Hay Bunder because we have no godowns to store a large amount of seized goods, said H G Shinde,Assistant Commissioner of Police,Yellow Date Division.
Soon after the vessel was berthed at Hay Bunder,word spread around the neighbouring shipyards and in August,cartons worth Rs 1.13 crore were stolen. The police eventually arrested the accused.
We had arrested seven men working in small workshops in Darukhana. We have recovered 80 per cent of the stolen goods from them. A few cartons fell into the sea, said an officer.
The police then decided to keep a closer watch on the cargo,while the vessel continues to be docked there.
Two months ago,we moved the remaining 400 cartons to the police station. The temple is the only open space we have, said the officer.
Interestingly,the temple,located right outside the station house,was used in September to house detained workers of the Aam Aadmi Party and in 2011 to accommodate 61 Somali pirates captured by the Navy.