“The gang would hire a tempo and driver"
A ganja (cannabis) haul worth almost £350,000 has been seized by the Mumbai Police Anti-Narcotics Cell.
The drugs were recovered on Friday, February 12, 2021, from a minibus near Vikroli on the Eastern Express Highway.
According to officials, two people have been arrested for transporting the contraband.
The pair in question used coconuts to hide the 1,800 kilograms of ganja. They did this in an attempt to avoid suspicion on their way to Mumbai from Odisha.
The incident is now being looked at as an interstate drug racket.
Police officials suspect that around five tonnes of ganja is smuggled into Maharashtra each month as a result of this interstate racket.
Out of this, at least 3.5 tonnes is distributed around Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, and Palghar.
The two men arrested have been identified. Akash Yadav was driving the minibus, with Dinesh Kumar Saroj as his accomplice.
The pair have been booked under the NDPS Act. Yadav is also a key suspect in another drug-related case.
The Mumbai Police Anti-Narcotics Cell is also investigating how the smugglers could cross Naxal-affected areas in Andhra Pradesh.
The police laid a trap for the smugglers leading to their arrest. A warrant is also out for the arrest of Sandeep Satpute, the primary supplier.
Police believe that Satpute, of Louis Wadi in Thane, receives the ganja in Chennai to supply to various areas around Maharashtra.
The modus operandi of the ganja-trafficking racket
On the ganja-trafficking process, Milind Bharambe, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), said:
“The gang would hire a tempo and driver would take it out of the city.
“Later, another tempo would take it to the border district in Andhra Pradesh.
“The driver of the tempo would be asked to stay in a hotel and his mobile would be seized.
“Another driver would then take the tempo further and reach in Odisha where they would keep the Ganja in it and cover it with coconuts and bring it to the hotel.
“The driver, staying in the hotel, would be asked to take the tempo to Maharashtra.”
In an interview with India Today, Bharambe said:
“Once the consignment reached near Mumbai, he would be replaced by another driver who would then take the consignment to a warehouse in Bhiwandi.
“Police have also identified one Laxmi Pradhan who handles the supply in Odisha and sold it to Satpute.
“The payment was made to Pradhan in cash, through Hawala and bank transfers as well.
“Arrested accused Yadav told the police that he had given some ganja to other accused in Solapur and Pune as well before coming to Mumbai.
“The ganja would be bought Rs 8,000 per kg from Pradhan and sold in Maharashtra for Rs 18,000 to Rs 20,000 per kg.”
Joint Commissioner Bharambe continued to explain the details of their discovery of the ganja haul.
He added: “It was more of a physical and technical investigation and chasing for information. Our team intercepted the tempo which contained coconuts.
“When examined carefully we found 1,800 kgs of Ganja hidden in a cavity made under the surface of the temple the coconuts were kept over it.”
According to the Mumbai Police Anti-Narcotics Cell, the inter-state drug racket had been operating discreetly for the last five or six years.