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Long arm of loan hand

- City fruit trader abducted in UP mango town

A fruit merchant from Jorasanko who went to an Uttar Pradesh town to source mangoes has been held captive over dues allegedly left unpaid when he had last visited the place 15 years ago.

Police said Mohammad Shabeer, in his early 40s, had been avoiding the orchards of Nagina in Bijnor district, known for its mangoes and sugarcanes, from where he once used to get fruits for his shop in the Mechhua fruit market in central Calcutta.

Last week, he returned to the town, apparently thinking that his creditor had forgotten about the dues.

“A complaint lodged by Shabeer’s family says a trader named Mohammad Nasir has held him and friend Nuruddin captive in Nagina. Nasir is demanding a ransom of Rs 10 lakh,” said an officer of Jorasanko police station.

“Nasir apparently said Shabeer did not pay for a consignment of mangoes worth around Rs 4 lakh 15 years ago. He is demanding Rs 10 lakh after calculating the interest on the unpaid amount.”

Nuruddin’s family has not yet lodged any complaint.

Shabeer had left Calcutta for Nagina a week ago, family members said.

“Shabeer was accompanied by a group to the Uttar Pradesh town. We came to know about the abduction when one of the men accompanying him called me. The Nagina trader later called and demanded a ransom of Rs 10 lakh,” said one of Shabeer’s brothers. The family member refused to say when the call from Shabeer’s associate came.

Unable to establish any contact with Shabeer, the family lodged a complaint of “abduction for ransom” with Jorasanko police station.

A team comprising officers from Jorasanko police station and one of Shabeer’s brothers have left for Nagina, sources said.

A probe revealed that Shabeer also runs a business of bell metal and has been regularly procuring bell metal from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh over the past few years.

Traders at the Jorasanko fruit market — commonly known as Mechhua market — said a large share of what they sell comes from Uttar Pradesh.

Sandwiched between College Street and Burrabazar, Mechhua market is the largest wholesale fruit market in eastern India. Mangoes keep arriving at the market from the end of January till September.

“In a good crop season, more than 100 tonnes of mangoes arrive in Mechhua market. From here, these mangoes go to different parts of Bengal and adjoining states,” said a fruit trader in the city.