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Missing pistol in Patel row found in Bihar

Hazaribagh, Dec. 6: Police have recovered from Bihar the pistol and bullets, which went missing along with two AK-47 rifles from the house of excise minister Jai Prakash Bhai Patel last month and triggered allegations that the JMM MLA had orchestrated the smuggling out of firearms to repay Maoist favours.

SP Manoj Kaushik said the gun was found in Bettiah, the hometown of key accused and special branch constable Navneet Kumar Tiwary who was in charge of Patel’s security. “I am now 90 per cent sure that the minister is not involved. We have recovered all the arms and ammunition. The motive behind the theft is also clearer,” he added.

Incidentally, Tiwary — accused of pulling off the theft at the minister’s Lake Road residence on November 23 — had changed his statement four times during interrogation and in his second version had revealed Patel’s name as the main conspirator.

“His first statement was authentic because it led to the recovery of the pistol and 35 rounds of bullets. We will cross-examine his statements through narco and polygraph tests, besides brain mapping on December 16 at the forensic laboratory in Gujarat,” the SP added.

Besides Tiwary, two bodyguards of the minister are in custody for stealing the AK-47s, 150 round of rifle bullets, the pistol and its 35 rounds.

In his first statement, Tiwary had said that he had dumped AK-47s in a bush behind Patel’s house to sell them later and repay his loans. These were recovered on November 30. He had also said that he gave the pistol to a close friend in Bettiah, Bihar, which is his native place.

Later, he changed his statement and said he had borrowed a lot of money from several people and Patel promised to clear his dues if he threw the weapons in the bush.

In his third statement, Tiwary said a third person came and took away his pistol.

And, in his final version so far, the constable said he was with minister on their way to Laiyo in Mandu when the pistol fell down.

Police junked the third statement because no “third person” was found.

Kaushik said the fourth version too did not pass merit because 35 rounds of bullets were missing and Tiwary said the pistol that fell down was loaded with 10.

“When we mounted pressure on him, he repeated his first statement,” the SP said. Sources said the family of the accused helped police recover the pistol from Bettiah on Thursday.

The SP that though Tiwary had no criminal antecedents — he also provided security to former chief minister Arjun Munda and former deputy chief minister Sudesh Mahto — investigations had revealed that the constable had lost Rs 60,000 in gambling in Ranchi during Diwali.

From there he went to his hometown Bettiah without taking leave and returned only after Chhath, albeit without his pistol. Since he normally wore plainclothes, no one noticed his weapon was missing.

“He tried to confuse police by changing his statement frequently. But, we worked on his first statement and recovered the missing pistol,” the SP said, adding that they were almost certain that the minister was not to blame.

Though police again gave Patel a clean chit, sources said they were doing so under pressure.

The rumours remain that the minister had to pay in cash and kind (weapons) to CPI(Maoist) zonal commander Ajay Mahto in Vishnugarh for helping him win the Mandu bypoll.

Earlier this week, chief minister Hemant Soren, in a bid to quell claims that his government was shielding his cabinet’s youngest colleague in the lost-and-found rifle controversy, stressed he wanted an impartial probe.