Police in Baramulla have written to the J&K government to ask the Centre to take up an international drug smuggling racket with Pakistan and allow their men to question suspects living across the border. The racket that involved smuggling drugs from Pakistan to Dubai via India was uncovered in July when 65.5 kg of brown sugar, hidden in specially carved cavities in containers carrying ladies suits from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar, were recovered in Uri.
While the J&K Police has taken the help of the National Investigation Agency, Chhattisgarh Police and Punjab Police to probe links across the country, Baramulla Police sent a letter rogatory on November 8 since it wants the matter raised with Pakistan to allow its team to question the accused there.
The probe, which has linked traders based in Muzaffarabad and Lahore with businesses in Srinagar, Delhi, Surat and Dubai, had come under cloud after the J&K government received information that a huge bribe was allegedly paid to investigators to leave “main accused” Tajamul Masoodi “untouched”.
Rejecting the allegation, Baramulla Senior Superintendent of Police Imtiyaz Hussain Mir said it was incorrect to suggest that any member of the probe team had accepted money to facilitate the release of Tajamul. “He is already in jail and nobody pays a bribe to be in jail. We have conducted a thorough investigation and its results will be out in open as soon as we file our first chargesheet,’’ he said.
“On July 21, I received a WhatsApp message from a source across the Line of Control, informing about a suspicious truck that was crossing the LoC with a consignment of ladies suits,’’ SSP Mir said. “We immediately deputed a team to intercept it as soon as it enters our territory.”
After a thorough check, police said they found 1,332 sachets of drugs hidden in fake cavities of textile boxes. “If we didn’t have prior input, it would have been impossible to trace this consignment,’’ SSP Mir said.
Police immediately arrested truck driver Syed Yousuf of Muzaffarabad. A handwritten receipt for delivery of the consignment was recovered from his pocket, which had been signed by a trader Musadiq Afzal Masoodi. Police also found that the consignment of ladies suits had come in the name of M/s Kuloo Suppliers of Srinagar.
Given the ramifications of the case, J&K police set up a Special Investigation Team led by Uri SDPO Javaid Ahmad for the probe. Police found out that the consignment was not in fact for Kuloo Suppliers. The firm said its letter pad had been forged by Musadiq. A computer operator at the Trade Centre, police said, confirmed that Musadiq had made a “counterfeit letter pad”.
Musadiq was called for questioning and driver of the truck identified him as the consignment recipient. Musadiq was arrested and once his mobile phone was confiscated, the plot began to unfold. “He had sent the picture of the delivery receipt to a contact named Anjum Zaman in PoK. He had also sent it to his uncle Tajamul Masoodi. He had received details of the consignment via WhatsApp from one Nayeem Bhat,’’ SSP Mir said. Police said the Forensic Science Laboratory in Srinagar confirmed that the handwriting on the receipt was of Musadiq — he had been running a trading firm M/s Adaaf Traders with two partners, uncle Tajamul Masoodi and Nayeem Bhat.
“Both (Tajamul and Nayeem) went into hiding,’’ SSP Mir said. “Tajamul is a passport holder. To stop him from leaving the country, a Look Out Circular was issued, alerting airports and emigration desks”. He said the narcotics consignment numbers had been sent via WhatsApp to Tajamul who had subsequently sent the invoice from Chakoti Trade Centre (across the LoC) to Musadiq.
“He (Tajamul) had deleted it from his phone but we retrieved it from Musadiq’s phone,’’ Mir said. Police have sent the phones of Tajamul and Nayeem to CFSL, Chandigarh for retrieval of all data and are awaiting the report.
Tajamul finally appeared before the police but a row erupted after he was allowed to return home after questioning. Because by then the top brass of J&K Police and even Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had been told that “two crore rupees have changed hands to ensure Tajamul goes untouched”.
SSP Mir said the allegation was completely false. “We were unable to trace Tajamul when a middleman approached us on his behalf. He wanted us to promise not to book him because he was ready to cooperate and help police find the origin as well as the final destination of the consignment. We agreed,’’ he said.
“This is why we let him go home twice after questioning so that he feels comfortable talking to us. All these false allegations were made because of that. This was critical to take the investigation further and avoid a dead-end,” he said. Tajamul provided clues to reveal the identities of the people behind the drug trade in Pakistan. SSP Mir said he was “aware that a huge bribe was offered to the investigating team but the team did not give in and all the accused involved in this drug racket have been arrested and are in judicial lock-up for three months now”.
The police probe revealed that Tajamul was in touch with Anjum Zaman based in Muzaffarabad, his brother Bazal Zaman and Sajjad Qureshi based in Lahore, Akhtar and Haji Sahib, both Pakistani nationals. “Through Tajamul, we have been able to get CDRs (call detail records) of the mobile phones of Anjum Zaman and Bazal Zaman and Sajad Qureshi,’’ SSP Mir said. “Based on Reverse CDRs (India hits) of Pakistani suspects, we have been able to identify the final drug delivery point on the Indian side. The narcotics were to be delivered to two persons, Akhtar and Abbas,” Mir said.
According to SSP Mir, Tajamul and Nayeem were “formally arrested on September 3”. He said the probe found out that “one Abdul Jabbar from Delhi and his partner Aftab were going to be the recipients of the narcotic consignment and now figure as main accused in the case”. He said, “Jabbar is under custody with Bilaspur Police in a money laundering case.”