If your brand-new SUV has been stolen, you should probably say RIP. In all likelihood, the burly beast is being brutally dismembered by tool-toting men in some shady highway garage near Ghatshila for enormous resale value.
A 14-strong gang of interstate car thieves uses this smart modus operandi for both pelf and immunity from police, leaving major cities of Jharkhand, Bihar and Bengal grieving over their hot wheels every month.
The money-spinning dismantle-and-sell strategy came to light after Jamshedpur and Seraikela-Kharsawan police arrested gang kingpin Mohammed Iqbal from Tata Main Hospital on Saturday.
The 32-year-old mastermind — who controls “operations” in Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Ghatshila, Patna, Muzaffarpur, Calcutta, Asansol and Kharagpur, besides other small towns in the three states — had been admitted to the private hospital after he sustained knee injuries in a road accident at Baharagora on Friday night.
One of Iqbal’s associates, Mohammed Ali, has also been arrested from the hospital.
Seraikela-Kharsawan SP Upendra Kumar said Iqbal, who has a house at Dhatkidih in Bistupur, was shifted to the district police headquarters in Seraikela on Monday night for interrogation in connection with an SUV theft in March this year. Ali is in Jamshedpur police custody because he is not an accused in that particular case.
According to police, the gang dismantled all brand new cars and sold the parts mainly in Calcutta and Jamshedpur. Old cars, on the other hand, are not torn apart. They are modified and resold with forged ownership papers to smaller towns of Bengal and Bihar, where second-hand cars always have a good market.
“The gang has been running the racket from a garage somewhere between Ghatshila and Galudih on NH-33 for two years. It mostly targets brand new cars because their spare parts fetch very good prices. Besides, once a car is dismantled, it is very difficult for police to nail culprits who stole it,” the SP said, adding that Iqbal and his men lifted at least five cars a month from different cities of Jharkhand, Bengal and Bihar.
Iqbal is learnt to have revealed the names of his other associates, but not customers. Kumar said they would send police teams to some of the target cities to track down other members of the gang, besides raiding the garage. “We cannot divulge further details of our crackdown for the sake of investigation,” he added.
This is the second time Iqbal has landed in police net. In 2009, then East Singhbhum SP Naveen Kumar Singh had nabbed him from Mango and recovered two stolen cars. He had later secured bail. Sources said Iqbal was only a small-time car thief at that time, but had built an “empire” over the years.
He also has built a strong support base in Jamshedpur’s Muslim pockets in two years. A mob had created ruckus at Tata Main Hospital and made an abortive attempt to stop police from shifting Iqbal from the hospital to Seraikela on Monday.
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