An executive magistrate of Alipore court was arrested by Howrah police on Wednesday for his alleged involvement in an inter-state car smuggling racket. Touted as the kingpin of the racket, Basudeb Mukherjee, also former regional transport officer, would use his clout and run the network from his Alipore office. Mukherjee was produced in Alipore court during the day and remanded in police custody for a week.
“Mukherjee was involved in issuing fake vehicle registration certificates to cars that were smuggled in from other states. After a five month-long investigation, we came to know that he was the mastermind behind the racket and was operating it from his office,” said Zulfiquar Hasan, superintendent of police, Howrah. The former key transport official was picked up from his house at Haldarpara Lane, in Kalighat.
In March this year, Howrah police received a requisition from their Rajasthan counterparts, asking them to keep a close watch on some suspects who were allegedly involved in a car smuggling racket. Based on the tip-off, a team of policemen arrested Ranjit Haldar from the Golabari police station area near Howrah station.
“Following the information Haldar divulged during interrogation, we have arrested nine persons over the past few months. Around nine vehicles that had been issued fake registration certificates were impounded,” Hasan added.
According to police sources, the car racket is reportedly controlled from elsewhere, but Mukherjee is the local lord. “He had the advantage of holding an important post in the transport office in Alipore and had enough clout to get things done. Mukherjee would also help the gang by recruiting people who would work for him in return for some money,” the police officer added.
During the probe spanning five months, Howrah police, in joint operations with the city police, raided several places and recovered a substantial number of documents, including fake registration papers and empty blue books. “Once the vehicles entered the state, the fake registration papers would be supplied from the regional transport office with Mukherjee’s help. Licence plates, too, would be made, based on prior information provided by him. Once both things reached the middlemen, they would hand over the vehicle to a local link, who would then hunt for customers in Calcutta or on the city’s fringes,” the officer added.
Though fake documents were prepared from the Alipore regional transport office, the trade was not restricted to the city or the state alone — the cars would often make their way to neighbouring states, like Bihar and Orissa. “We are also trying to find out whether these cars were sold off to a specific group of people who are also involved in illegal activities, or were targeted for the open market,” said an officer of Golabari police station involved in the probe.
“This case is significant because a senior officer is involved in the racket. We will interrogate Mukherjee to find out the transit route of the vehicles on their way to the state. In fact, we will also have to ascertain if more such influential people are linked in the chain. Besides, the modus operandi of the gang in Bengal and in other states will also have to be cracked. Once we get the details, several other arrests may follow,” Hasan observed.