Expanding their probe into major mephedrone production and distribution ring unearthed in October, the Pimpri-Chinchwad police have arrested six more persons including a chemist known among racketeers as ‘doctor’, who provided training in making the drugs and also the people who ensured supplies of raw chemicals. The total number of people arrested so far is 20.
In the drug bust conducted on October 7, the Pimpri-Chinchwad police had seized a 20-kilogram consignment of mephedrone, popularly known as Meow Meow, worth Rs 20 crore in international market. They had arrested five persons from near Chakan in Pune district. The subsequent probe unearthed a big narcotic production and distribution ring and it came to light that mephedrone worth over Rs 130 crore was manufactured at a Biotech unit in Ranjangaon. Among the nine more racketeers arrested by the police were a criminal linked to the Chhota Rajan gang and also a Nigerian national, who handled the distribution part of the ring. The entire racket seems to have been active since the last one-and-a-half years, officials said.
Among the nine arrested were the kingpins of the racket – Tushar Kale and Rakesh Khaniwadekar alias Rocky. Police have said that Kale has had links with the Chhota Rajan gang and Khaniwadekar is wanted by the Narcotics Control Bureau for other drug cases. The Nigerian national arrested by police, Zubi Udoko, had been looking after the bulk distribution of the manufactured contraband.
After this, the six teams formed by the Pimpri-Chinchwad police commissioner and led by DCP Sudhir Hiremath, zeroed down on six more persons, who have been arrested, taking the total number of arrests in the case to 20 so far. The first among the latest arrests were made on November 24, when Parshuram Jogal (44) was arrested from Thane. On November 25, Mandar Bhosale (49) and Ram Gurbani (43) were arrested from Thane and Mulund in Mumbai, respectively. On December 5, police teams arrested Arvindkumar Lohare (39), who hails from Uttar Pradesh and lives in Oshiwara in Mumbai, Manoj Palande (40), a resident of Roha in Raigad and Afzal Hussain Abbas (52), a resident of Banaskantha in Gujarat. These arrests were by the staff from the six probe teams, who at times even had to do surveillance in disguise.
Police probe has revealed that Kale and Khaniwadekar received training for making mephedrone from Arvindkumar with the help of Bhosale, Jogal and Palande. Arvindkumar is known among racketeers as ‘doctor’ and has a MSc degree in Organic Chemistry and has worked in pharmaceutical companies in the past. He was arrested in 2018 in Nashik for running a drug-manufacturing laboratory in a house. The ‘doctor’ is known to have charged Rs 35 lakh from racketeers for training them in manufacturing mephedrone. Bhosale, Jogal and Palande have helped the kingpins in getting the manufacturing space, equipment, chemical raw material supply and also helped with the distribution. Afzal Hussain has allegedly been part of the distribution network. Latest probe has also revealed that Udoko had managed to get hold of three forged passports with which he had been able to continue his stay in India and sell contraband drugs. These people also helped racketeers in making trial batches of mephedrone before large-scale unit began in Ranjangaon.
Pimpri-Chinchwad Police Commissioner Krishna Prakash said, “Our focus since the beginning has been to cut the roots of this racket. Just cutting the branches would have no results. So with that in mind, our probe till now has managed to target the input side of the racket – the manufacturing units, supply of raw materials, scientific knowhow and others inputs. Now that we have achieved to some extent, we will also look at how the drugs of such large quantities were distributed, moved, sold and peddled to the end user. Our teams are now working on more leads and hope to make further breakthroughs soon.”
As a follow up of the investigation, police have sealed multiple properties and seized many equipment that were used in the manufacturing units. Police officials also said that appointment of a Special Public Prosecutor in the case was under consideration.
The six teams probing the cases were coordinated by DCP Hiremath and headed by Police Inspectors Shriram Pol and Balkrushna Sawant, Assistant Inspectors Ram Gomare, Ambarish Deshmukh, Prashant Mahale, Sagar Panmand and Sub-inspector Girish Chamle.
Mephedrone is a synthetically manufactured stimulant of the amphetamine and cathinone category. Till early 2010s, the drug was not included in the list of contrabands under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. But after multiple seizures of large quantities of the drug and rising instances of its consumption as narcotic in large cities, prompted authorities to include it in the list in 2015. The drug has reported rising consumption across India. State police and other probe agencies have in the past made significant seizures of Meow Meow in Pune and surrounding areas. A common link between all these actions was that the drug was being manufactured at chemical factories that were running on the pretext of production of other chemicals.
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