Calcutta, Oct. 13: The “landmines” unearthed during a joint swoop by the army, the CID and the state intelligence branch yesterday were only empty shells from a Maharashtra ordnance factory.
Chandrapur Ordnance Factory had apparently outsourced the job of applying finishing touches to the shells to a small plastic factory at Parnasree in Behala on the southern fringes of the city.
Sujit Sardar, one of the three arrested in connection with the “explosive” haul, has told CID officers that the Behala company had entrusted him with the job of finishing the shells and that is how he had such a large number of them.
“The shells, weighing 60-65 grams, have no element of metal in them. As a result, it is difficult to trace them with a metal detector. The two accused in our possession claim they had been assigned to finish them by the Behala company. We are verifying their claims,” said Rajeev Kumar, a CID deputy inspector-general.
Sujit said he had been associated with the Parnasree factory for over three years and it was at its owner’s behest that he took up the job of finishing the plastic shells. “My job was to paint the shells, write a new date after removing the original one and do some other small jobs for which I would receive a commission.”
To complete this job, Sujit had apparently brought bagloads of shells to brother-in-law Ranjit Jana’s Behala house.
While the shells belonged to the ordnance factory, the rest of the ammunition — mainly cartridges — were from an army depot at Panagarh in Burdwan. Sujit’s brother, lance-naik Bijit Sardar, had allegedly smuggled them out.
The raid on Jana’s house yielded 691 9mm cartridges, 340 7.62mm cartridges, 58 .303 and three 5.56 Insas cartridges — which are said to have been stolen from the depot.
Investigators said the cartridges would have been sold in the illegal arms market. Sujit and his brother Swarup — both residents of Falta, South 24-Parganas — were produced in a city court and remanded in 14 days’ police custody.
Bijit was produced before a commanding officer of the Eastern Command and his statement was recorded before an independent witness for a possible court martial.
“The process of court martial will not be hurried. The recording of the statement is just the first step,” said Wing Commander R.K. Das.
“The two civilians arrested are arms dealers who have been in this business for a long time,” he had said yesterday.
“Besides the IB and the CID, the SIB (subsidiary intelligence bureau) is interrogating the accused and there can be more arrests. It is too early to comment on those involved,” chief minister Buddha- deb Bhattacharjee said today.
The owner of the Parna- sree factory, whose name the police did not want to disclose, was questioned tonight. The sleuths are verifying whether he had the permission to sublet his job to outsiders.