Two men, including a sand mafia operative, were arrested recently in connection with a major firearms smuggling racket that the Pimpri-Chinchwad police had unearthed in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in July.
The probe in this case, which had begun with an offence registered in March, had stalled after seven of the 20 police officers in the investigation team contracted Covid-19. However, search was intensified for the suspects this month, the Pimpri-Chinchwad Police’s Crime Branch said in a press release on Monday.
The police have recovered five pistols and four live cartridges from the two accused arrested recently, identified as Somnath alias Somabhai Ramesh Chavan (30) and Santosh Chandu Rathod (23). With this, the number of firearms recovered in this case includes 47 country-made pistols and 68 cartridges.
In July, fifteen persons, including Mansingh Bhatia alias Sardar, were arrested from Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh. Sardar was one of the key racketeers in supplying illegal firearms to criminals in Maharashtra, police said. The police had recovered 42 pistols and 64 cartridges from the accused. The four-month-long operation had also involved policemen posing as criminals to buy weapons. The police then launched a search for 11 more suspects for their alleged involvement in the firearms haul case.
Probe revealed that accused Rathod was recently released from bail from Yerwada Central Prison in a murder case lodged with Lonavala police station. Rathod was then arrested in the arms haul case and a pistol and two cartridges were recovered from him, police said.
Investigators also found that Chavan was lodged in jail in a case of dacoity registered with the Umbraj police station in Satara district. According to police, Somnath is a sand mafia operative active in the Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur belt. He runs two organisations called ‘Shoot group’ and ‘Aai Saheb Pratisthan’, police said. He is the key accused in the murder of Krushna Dange in Nigdi in 2016 and an attack on a BJP office-bearer in Thane in 2018, police said.
The Pimpri-Chinchwad police took Somnath into custody from Satara jail on August 17. Four pistols and two bullets were recovered from him, police said.
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