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Probe in gutkha racketeering leads Pune cops to hawala ring; 9 arrested, Rs 3.7 crore seized

In a series of night raids in the city on Wednesday, the crime branch team arrested nine suspected hawala operators and seized nearly Rs 3.7 crore in cash.

By: Express News Service | Pune | Updated: December 4, 2020 2:54:36 pm
The police said it was arguably the biggest raid and recovery during any action against illegal gutkha trade.

A “hawala transaction ring” has been unearthed by a team of Pune City Police’s Crime Branch while it was probing the seizure of a gutkha stash.

In a series of night raids in the city on Wednesday, the crime branch team arrested nine suspected hawala operators and seized nearly Rs 3.7 crore in cash.

The nine arrests in the raids on Wednesday night are in addition to the nine arrests made earlier in connection with gutkha racketeering that first led police to the hawala operators, taking the total number of arrests in the case to 18.

On November 19, Pune Police had taken a series of actions against the sale of gutkha in the city. In one case registered at Chandan Nagar police station, police initially arrested five persons and seized from them gutkha and other items worth Rs 7 lakh. In the subsequent probe, police arrested two transporters and two more distributors of gutkha, who are believed to be key members of the racket.

After the police team from Crime Branch Unit-4, led by Inspector Rajnish Nirmal, started digging deeper into the transactions made by these two distributors, it came to light that they had been transferring money to gutkha suppliers at other places through a hawala money remittance ring.

“Following credible information, teams from Crime Branch Unit-4 and Zone 1 of Pune police conducted joint raids at five locations in the city, and arrested nine persons. The probe has brought to light a link of hawala operators who were moving proceeds of gutkha racketeering,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police Bachchan Singh.

Police officials said the nine persons arrested on Wednesday were all hawala operators. The investigation so far has revealed an elaborate network of gutkha suppliers, transporters and distributors, with links to hawala remittance rings for money transfer, said officials.

The consumption, sale, storage, transport and manufacturing of gutkha is banned in Maharashtra. Hawala is primarily an alternate remittance which operates outside the legal framework of the banking system and involves ‘transfer of money without physical movement of money’ based on the trust (hawala) between operators located in one country or in different countries.

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