The detective department of the city police has busted a car-smuggling racket with the arrest of three members of the nine-man gang. The gang-leader, however, is absconding and police sources say he is in Siliguri.
The racket came into light a few months ago after police received several complaints from car-owners, whose vehicles went missing after they were given out on rent. But on August 18, the death of Surjit Singh, 23-year-old driver of one of the missing cars, gave the case a decisive twist and it was referred to the detective department.
According to police sources, the modus operandi of the gang was simple. Two of them would hire a vehicle — a Sumo, Bolero or Scorpio — from a travel agent and drive down to the Alipore Mint. From there, a third person would join them and set off for Kalighat or its vicinity. One of trio would get off and two others would board it. The vehicle would be taken to the Durgapur Expressway, via Sealdah. En route to Malda, the gang would ask the driver to share a meal at a roadside dhaba, drug him and dump him somewhere along the roadside. A sixth member of the gang would wait for them with fake registration documents for the car and it would cross the Bengal border.
“They would drive a circuitous route to shake off anyone on their trail. The gang was extremely organised and Sarkar, the leader, would plan the operation. Investigations reveal he was a travel agent from the Bansdroni area. Now, he operates from Siliguri,” a police official said.
The three arrested youth were identified as Dhirender Jha, of Darbhanga, in Bihar, Rana Roy of Kalighat and Anup Das of Malda. “During interrogation, they confessed that they had smuggled out nearly 15 cars and sold them in other states. Travel agents had been tapped from across the city to avoid identification. The problem with Surjit was that he was young and active. When the gang tried to drug him, he resisted and the situation spun out of control. Four of the goons overpowered him and strangled him to death. On their way to Malda, they dumped his body on the Durgapur Expressway near Burdwan, in the Kanksa police station area. The body was recovered by officers of the local police station and was registered as a ‘runover’ case. Surprisingly, the local police managed to get a post-mortem report way ahead of the usual time and cremated the ‘unclaimed body’,” an official alleged.
Surjit’s uncle, Harjan Singh, lodged a complaint with Tollygunge police station on August 21, two days after he was killed. “Surjit was supposed to return in a couple of days, but when he did not, his father Kuldeep and I went to the owner of Seema Travels, Samrat Chakraborty. He told us that he was not aware of Surjit’s whereabouts. On his advice, we lodged a complaint. The boy was a fine lad but could not bear being forced to do something against his will. His parents are from Ludhiana but he was born in Calcutta and completed his matriculation from Khalsa School, in Bhowanipore,” uncle Harjan said.
A hunt is on for Raju and Anwar, two members of the gang believed to be hiding on the northern fringes of the city. “Anwar is a Bangladeshi who lived in Duttapukur. When we laid a trap for the gang, which netted the three members, Raju and Anwar went into hiding,” the official said.