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Scam flourishes under scam-buster’s nose

Calcutta, May 19: When Upen Biswas had retired from busting scams, unknown to him a scam was cooking under his own roof.

Police today cracked a drug operation on the ground floor of a house in Salt Lake owned by the former CBI officer, who acquired legendary status after hauling Laloo Prasad Yadav to jail in Bihar’s fodder scandal.

Five ground-floor tenants — three Myanmarese and two Chinese — at Biswas’s CG-22, Salt Lake, residence were arrested for possessing 24 kg of ephedrine hydrochloride. It would have been enough to make 100,000 amphetamine-type stimulant tablets worth Rs 1,000 each in the drug market, or a total of Rs 10 crore.

As Narcotics Control Bureau sleuths zeroed in on his residence, the former additional director of the CBI was reduced to standing and staring in disbelief. Biswas, who lives upstairs, uses a separate entrance.

The narcotics bureau gave him a clean chit, but Biswas himself was hard put to explain how San Niang Thanga — a member of the inner circle of a gang being tailed by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency, also of the US — came to be his tenant.

Thanga himself evaded arrest. But five of his henchmen — Myanmarese nationals Baiktha Kima, Lal Tan Puta and Lal Sanga and Chinese nationals Chen Fulun and Wen Delong — were picked up along with the drug and equipment, the bureau’s director-general, M.K. Singh, said over phone from Delhi.

As the police tried to come to terms with the “sensational” arrest of five members of the Ah Hua (described by the FBI as a Chinese drug-cartel kingpin) gang, Biswas explained how he was taken in.

He advertised in newspapers to rent out the ground floor when a senior Mizoram government official introduced Thanga to him.

“He (the officer) introduced Thanga on his official pad and I signed a contract on February 17,” Biswas added.

Describing Thanga as a “well-behaved gentleman”, he admitted to “never imagining he could be part of an international drug cartel”.

Bureau officials never for once blamed Biswas. But its assistant director .C. Patra said: “It is expected that a former high-ranking officer like Biswas would be more careful about his tenants and check their antecedents more carefully.”

The bureau received a communiqué on Saturday morning from the US agencies. A close associate of Ah Hua was picked up (one of eight held in raids that started in April) from a place near Beijing on May 16. He blurted out the names of associates camping in Calcutta during the interrogation, the missive said.

The Beijing swoop was a sequel to an earlier raid on Ah Hua’s operations in the US in January when 10 people of Chinese and Myanmarese origin were picked up along with a huge drug cache.

Calcutta’s arrested five carried fake Indian passports and driving licences. All the documents were obtained in Mizoram and Meghalaya, officials said.

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