In a major success against the narco-terrorism network in the country, the Punjab Police on Saturday morning arrested Ranjeet Singh alias Rana aka Cheeta, a big fish in the network allegedly controlled by Pakistan’s ISI. Cheeta is alleged to have had links with slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo who was killed by security forces in Kashmir recently.
Among other cases, he was also wanted for smuggling 532-kg heroin and 52-kg mixed narcotics, worth over Rs 2,700 crore, from Pakistan in a consignment of 600 bags of rock salt, through Attari Integrated Check Post (ICP) on June 29 last year.
vvv through the legal land route of Attari ICP and also across the border fencing on Indo-Pak border in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
He was arrested from Begi village in Haryana’s Sirsa along with his brother Gagandeep aka Bhola.
In the June 2019 operation, the Customs Department, Amritsar, had seized one of the biggest hauls of 532 kg of suspected heroin and 52 kg of suspected mixed narcotics at Attari ICP, Amritsar. Two persons, Tariq Ahmed Lone, a resident of Handwara, Jammu and Kashmir, and Gurpinder Singh, a resident of Amritsar, were arrested in the case. The consignment was hidden under bags of salt in the truck which had come from Pakistan.
CM praises police, warns Pakistan
Announcing the arrests, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh lauded the Punjab Police for their aggressive operations against terrorists and drug smugglers despite their pre-occupation with the enforcement of curfew and other measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“Pakistan is not letting up on its attempts to push drugs, weapons and drug money despite the Covid crisis, clearly in an attempt to destabilise the state and disturb its peace, but we will not allow that to happen,” declared Amarinder.
Amarinder also congratulated the police for last month’s arrest of Hilal Ahmed Wagay, an overground worker of the banned Hizbul Mujahideen and a close associate of Naikoo. The inputs shared by Punjab Police played a significant role in the operations by J&K Police against Naikoo, said a Punjab police spokesperson.
Later on May 5, two more Hizbul operatives — Bikram Singh aka Vicky and his brother Maninder Singh aka Mani — were arrested by Punjab Police from Amritsar. They were held with one kg heroin and over Rs 32 lakh in cash.
“Their interrogation revealed that both Bikram and Maninder, along with their cousins Cheeta, Iqbal Singh aka Shera and Sarwan Singh, were dealing in drugs smuggled from across the border, and that Bikram had come to deliver Rs 29 lakh drug money to Hilal Ahmed on the instructions of Cheeta, Shera and Sarwan,” said a police spokesperson.
Chief Minister said: “Bikram and Maninder made certain disclosures about the activities of Cheeta and his brother Sarwan aka Polu.”
The CM added that further analysis of data, along with NIA, led to the identification of Cheeta’s Sirsa location, and subsequently, in coordination with Haryana Police, the hideout was busted and he was caught with his brother in the wee hours of Saturday.
According to the CM, Cheeta was “one of the most active nodes of the extensive and common network of drug smugglers/couriers set up by the Pakistani ISI to push in composite consignments of drugs, weapons, FICN (fake Indian currency notes) from Pakistan into Punjab through various means, including drones”.
“He had been convicted in 2008, 2009, 2011 etc. for heroin smuggling. He was awarded 12 years rigorous imprisonment for smuggling of 5 kg heroin, but was acquitted by the Supreme Court in March 2018 by giving him benefit of doubt,” police said.
“The arrest of Ranjeet (Cheeta), one of the most active drug smugglers of the country, and his brother today morning, marked the first time the police had been able to unravel international drug networks on such a massive scale, to expose a major racket of narco-proceeds being routed to terrorist outfits operating in J&K valley, Punjab and other parts of the country,” said the Chief Minister, recalling his promise to the people of Punjab that he would “go after the ‘big fish’ involved in the drug trade.
Operation nab Cheeta
Giving details of the Sirsa operation, DGP Dinkar Gupta said he spoke to his Haryana counterpart Manoj Yadav at around 9 pm on Friday, and thereafter coordination was established by Amritsar Police Commissioner with Sirsa SP Arun Nehra.
“A team of Amritsar police comprising of ASP Abhimanyu Rana, currently working as SHO Sadar, DCP (D) Amritsar Mukhvinder Singh Bhullar and ADCP (D) Jugraj Singh started for Sirsa on May 8 at 11 pm and reached around 3.30 am on Thursday, and the outer cordon was setup by 4:30 am,” said Gupta.
The DGP added: “The outer cordon of the area was laid jointly by Haryana police and Punjab Police. The raid team comprising of members of Police Station Sadar and CIA Staff, under the guidance of DCP Bhullar, raided two locations. At the first location, police officials from the first raid team entered the premises but the suspects were not found at the location.”
“At the second location, the compound wall was scaled…and upon knocking on the door, Cheeta opened the door slowly. As soon as he saw the police party he tried to close the gate and grab an axe lying close to his bed but the door was kicked open and Ranjeet was caught. His brother Gagandeep Singh was sleeping in the other room and was arrested from there,” said the DGP.
DGP Gupta also revealed that Cheeta has five brothers, and at least three of them, including Gagandeep Singh aka Bhola, have drug smuggling cases against them.
The other two brothers, Balwinder Singh aka Billa and Kuldeep Singh also have multiple cases under NDPS Act registered against them.
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