ONE of the crucial threads that the Pimpri-Chinchwad Police are probing in the production and distribution ring of meow meow – a nickname for the drug Mephedrone – is the role of a Nigerian national who has not just done jail time in a drugs case in the past, but who has been allegedly living and operating a drugs ring in the country with a new identity and forged documents.
The 41-year-old Nigerian man, initially identified based on the passport in his possession as Zubi Ifeanyi Udoka, was arrested by Pimpri-Chinchwad Police on October 16 in the follow- up probe of the drugs bust they had made on October 7, in which a 20-kg consignment of the contraband substance Mephedrone, worth Rs 20 crore, was seized.
Initial investigation revealed that the man had played a key role in the distribution side of the manufactured Mephedrone, using his past experience in a drugs racket. The investigation till now shows that over 130 kg of Mephedrone was manufactured at a biotech unit in Ranjangaon, and the Nigerian national looked after the sales aspect, among others.
A senior police officer said that after the man’s arrest on October 16, a Nigerian passport with a travel visa in the name of Zubi Ifeanyi Udoka was seized from him. Because the police team was suspicious about the authenticity of the documents, they wrote to the Nigerian Embassy and Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Mumbai. The reply from the FRRO revealed that the serial number of visa on the man’s passport was in fact the number of a tourist visa issued to a Bangladesh national.
During subsequent questioning, the man told the police that his name was Francis Azbuke Okpara. “We now know that this man has been convicted in a drugs case by a central agency and has spent 10 years in Kolhapur’s Kalamba Central Prison before being released a few years ago.
After his release, he had started operating with a changed identity and forged travel documents…we are currently probing his past experience in dealing with drugs,” said the officer.
Police launched a separate probe into the forged documents and have registered an offence at Chakan police station under the Foreigner’s Act and Passport Act, along with IPC sections pertaining to forgery. Police are also in touch with the Nigerian Embassy in connection with the case, said an official.
Till now, a total of 20 persons have been arrested in the case of meow meow production and distribution ring, which is being investigated by six teams, led by DCP Sudhir Hiremath.
Among those arrested till now are the alleged kingpins of the racket — Tushar Kale and Rakesh Khaniwadekar alias Rocky. While Kale is said to have had links with the Chhota Rajan gang, Khaniwadekar is an alleged racketeer also wanted by the NCB for other drug cases.
The latest person to be arrested in connection with the case on December 5, Arvindkumar Lohare, is a post-graduate degree holder in organic chemistry, known among the racketeers as ‘doctor’. He allegedly trained members of the drug ring about how to make the meow meow.
Shishir Hiray appointed SPP in Mephedrone case
The state government has appointed Advocate Shishir Hiray as Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) in the Mephedrone production and distribution ring case, which is being investigated by Pimpri-Chinchwad police.
Because of the seriousness of the case, the appointment of an SPP was under consideration.
Hiray told The Indian Express that the state government has issued a notification for his appointment as SPP in the case. He said he will appear in court for the case from Thursday.
Hiray is currently representing the state government in the proceedings of the inquiry commission constituted to probe into causes of the Koregaon Bhima violence. He has also been an SPP in the case of a multi-crore narcotics racket, in which former actress Mamata Kulkarni has been named as a key accused.
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