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Coal ‘smuggler’ arrested with arms

Durgapur, June 24: An alleged coal smuggler wanted in at least two cases of robbery in Durgapur since January has been arrested with a cache of arms.

Eight firearms, including four revolvers and a pistol, and 46 rounds of cartridges of AK-47, .303, 9mm and 65mm guns were recovered from Rakesh Singh while he was waiting for some his associates near a private school in the steel town, police said.

Rakesh, the police claimed, today confessed to have masterminded the two robberies in the last six months, in which Rs 9 lakh was looted from an insurance company at City Centre and Rs 3.5 lakh robbed from the office of a coal trader in Bidhannagar.

Rakesh, said to be a former aide of another alleged coal kingpin Raju Jha, was also accused of attempting to murder his mentor in February, days after Jha was out on bail, the police said.

Jha was patronised by the CPM during its rule while Rakesh now enjoys the support of a Trinamul leader in Durgapur’s Mining Allied and Machineries Corporation township, a police officer said.

Rakesh was also involved in the smuggling of ganja (cannabis) and over 10 kilograms of it worth around Rs 3 lakh was found in his bag, the officer said.

“The coal smuggler turned to robbing after a crackdown on illegal coal pilfering in Asansol and Durgapur and also started smuggling of cannabis recently. He had set up a gang which was involved in the two robberies in the town and also made three vain attempts. Eight robbers who were part of his gang were arrested in March and a Scorpio bearing a Press sticker which allegedly belonged to the group was found,” said Arijit Dasgupta, the officer in charge of Durgapur police station.

The gang had gathered in the white Scorpio and were waiting for Rakesh to commit a robbery at a jewellery shop in City Centre area when the eight were arrested. Rakesh, though, managed to give the police a slip.

“We were trying to arrest him and had sent police teams to Siwan and other locations of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh,” Dasgupta said. Rakesh belongs to Siwan in Bihar.

According to sources in the police, after the change in government in May last year, Rakesh was in touch with a Trinamul leader whose wife had contested the recent civic polls and lost, and after the arrest of Jha in July last year, he developed a rivalry with him.

Rakesh, the sources added, tried to renew coal smuggling in the area with the help of the Trinamul leader but could not succeed because of strong resentment and resistance from a section of the party leaders in the town.

Rakesh was today produced in Burdwan special court and charged with the narcotic and arms act, both non-bailable.

“We will pray to take him in police remand for at least 10 days for further investigation,” Dasgupta said.