The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested a customs superintendent while he was taking a Rs 3-lakh bribe in front of the air-conditioned market at the Gariahat crossing on Sunday.
The amount changing hands on Sunday was the first of four equal instalments— adding up to Rs 12 lakh — superintendent of customs (preventive) S.K. Das had demanded from the family of Diamond Harbour fish trader Sukumar Ray for letting him off the hook in a case involving possession of heroin.
Customs officials arrested Ray a week ago on charges of possessing heroin, officials said on Sunday. Ray’s family, however, denied the allegation and said it was trumped up by Customs officials to harass him.
Ray’s brother-in-law, Haripada Barui (real name withheld on request), went to the customs office on Strand Road on Tuesday to present this argument. There, according to his complaint lodged with the CBI’s anti-corruption wing, he was intercepted by Das, posted as superintendent in the Barasat division of the agency. It would not be “very difficult” for him to “help” Ray, Das told Barui. He was in a position to “influence” the report of the chemical test, he claimed, adding that the column indicating the presence or otherwise of heroin in the list of seized substances could easily be made “negative”.
Ray’s family, however, would have to return the favour, Das told Barui. He then made the demand for Rs 12 lakh. Barui pleaded that the family would not be able to organise so much money in a week and it was then decided that Das would get the full amount, but in four instalments.
Barui left the customs office and headed straight for the CBI’s anti-corruption wing at Nizam’s Palace. There, he narrated how the customs officer was fleecing him, following which CBI officials coached him on how to help them set a trap.
Barui was to agree to Das’ demands and pay the first instalment of Rs 3 lakh on Sunday; the time and venue of the meeting was to be left to Das’ convenience, Barui was instructed.
Accordingly, Barui told Das that he would be able to arrange Rs 3 lakh in a week. He was told to bring it to the pavement in front of the Gariahat AC Market at 10 am on Sunday. Barui relayed the conversation to the CBI officials, who told him to do exactly as Das wanted.
On Sunday, Barui took up position a few minutes before the appointed hour as three CBI officials waited a few metres away. Das arrived some time later in a taxi and walked up to Barui.
As soon as he laid his hands on the polythene packet bearing the money — Rs 3 lakh in Rs 500 and Rs 100 notes — CBI officials pounced on him. He was led away and taken in custody, officials said. A search was conducted at Das’ residence.