In a sensational raid, the Anti-Corruption Branch of Assam Police on June 13 not only recovered over Rs 66 lakh in cash from a Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Mohit Chandra Talukdar, from his office in Dhemaji district, but also found at least one tiger skin, some quantity of ivory and other animal parts.
The arrest and recovery came at a time when forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma had been struggling to put an end to rhino poaching in Kaziranga National Park amid allegations that forest personnel had a hand in most of the poaching incidents and other forest-related crimes.
Talukdar, who has been posted in Dhemaji district in eastern Assam for over two years now, was initially arrested by the ACB sleuths after trapping him and catching him red-handed with Rs 30,000 that he had sought from three truck owners who were transporting some forest produce with legal documents.
“When the ACB team from Guwahati, along with our district police personnel raided his official quarter, it led to recovery of Rs 62.25 lakh in cash, and two fixed deposit documents worth Rs 15 lakh each. A simultaneous raid in his private residence in Guwahati has already led to recovery of about Rs 4.27 lakh in cash,” Dhemaji SP Swapnaneel Deka told The Indian Express late Monday night.
Officials conducting the raid in his multi-storeyed private residence on the posh Mother Teresa Road here on the other hand said at least one tiger skin, two kgs of ivory and various other animal parts have been already seized. Two lockers in his private residence were yet to be opened, it was gathered. DFO Talukdar has been booked under Sections 7, 13(1) and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Reports said DFO Talkudar had, since his posting in Dhemaji district bordering Arunachal Pradesh allegedly set up at least 11 illegal forest check gates and had deployed his subordinate staff to collect cash from trucks and other vehicles carrying any kind of forest produce, whether legally or illegally.
While the check gates were abolished soon after new Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal ordered for their closure immediately after taking charge on May 24, DFO Talukdar was allegedly collecting money from trucks and other vehicles by “seizing” them and keeping them confined in the divisional forest office.
Last week police received a complaint from three local transporters that the DFO had asked for Rs 10,000 each for trucks that had been “seized” despite legal documents and necessary permits. Accordingly, a trap was laid by the police backed by ACB sleuths who had rushed from Guwahati, and Talukdar was caught red-handed with the cash, SP Deka said.
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