Sleuths had to dash off to Guwahati and Manipur in the Northeast to track down seven people, running a nationwide racket in car-lifting. With the arrest of the mastermind on Monday, the city police came to know that the gang had stolen more than 100 upmarket cars, including Maruti 1000s and Ford Ikons, in the past two years.
“During raids in Manipur and Calcutta, six members of the gang were netted, while the mastermind, Oinam Lakhinder Singh, was picked up from a central Calcutta hotel on Monday. A stolen Maruti was impounded from Lakhinder,” said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner of police, detective department. “That apart, we have already recovered three stolen cars. One Ford Ikon has also been recovered in Imphal, which will be brought to the city.”
On Monday, the police spotted Lakhinder in front of the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court. But since they were carrying a photograph of his, where he is bald, they were unsure of his identity. “Obviously, he had donned a wig to throw us off his tracks. Still, we kept following him and found that he was holed up in a central Calcutta hotel. Later, we tracked him down to a red-light area in Burtola and found the wig was missing. Then, we followed him back to the hotel and arrested him,” said Mitra.
Police said the racket extended till Delhi, where a number of cars were stolen recently. Mitra said: “According to the statement provided by the accused, a number of government officials of the Manipur transport department are involved in the racket.”
Explaining the gang’s modus operandi, Mitra said the men would collect false registration papers from Patna. “After stealing a vehicle, they would drive down to Guwahati via Siliguri. They would show the false papers to the police at the checkposts,” he added.
After arriving in Guwahati, Lakhinder and his brother, Oinam Behari Singh, would meet their associates and hand over to them the false registration papers with forged stamps of the Manipur government. After arriving at Manipur, the racketeers would contact the local transport offices. “We managed to procure fresh registration papers from the transport offices in Imphal, Bishenpur, Churachandpur and Thobal. The cars were then sold at anything between Rs 80,000 to Rs 2 lakh, depending on the brand,” Lakhinder is reported to have told the sleuths interrogating him.
During the Northeast raids, sleuths had also picked up Lakhinder’s brother Behari. “Lakhinder had come down to the city to negotiate with a lawyer for his brother when we spotted him,” said Mitra.