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Militants give legal touch to arms deals

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  • Published 19.03.12

New Delhi, March 18: Northeast outfits are employing crafty financial methods to procure arms worth millions of dollars and make them look like legitimate legal buys.

A series of arrests by the National Investigation Agency of militants from various outfits has revealed formulae that take the best financial brains to come up with.

A number of such devices tumbled out of the militants’ closets after the NIA arrested NSCN (I-M) leader Anthony Shimray and over 20 United National Liberation Front men, including chairman R.K. Meghen.

Shimray is accused of buying weapons from China with plans to spend $1.2 million (approximately Rs 60 crore) while the UNLF was buying properties in Guwahati, Imphal and Siliguri with benami transactions.

“The cases against them and the accompanying evidence is good enough to put them away for some years,” said an NIA source.

Shimray has been chargesheeted and a key witness in the case has spoken against him, sources said. The Ukhrul resident allegedly placed an order for weapons worth $7 lakh (Rs 31 lakh, two years ago) to China-based weapons manufacturers, including Norinco.

Getting weapons manufacturers to sell their hardware is a complex process. One needs to convince them, at least officially, that the buyer has a legal order from a country.

Shimray is accused of associating with a Thailand-based arms dealer, Wily Nauranrwatich, who got an end-user certificate that was submitted to the arms manufacturing companies before the purchase and later to the shipping companies.

The consignment with “1,000 pieces” of arms and ammunition was to be loaded on a ship from Beihai port in Guangxi province of China, a source said.

“The end-user certificate was from Laos so that the shipping consignment would be headed to that country. But it would not go there,” a source told The Telegraph.

The arms consignment would have reached the high seas of Bay of Bengal off Cox’s Bazaar.

It would then have been smuggled into the Northeast through the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

NIA sources said all transactions were done through emails, of which there is evidence with the central agency.

Of the $1.2 million, only $0.9 million was actually paid as the rebel group fell short of money, according to the NIA.

Shimray had allegedly paid $1 lakh (Rs 45 lakh) for the end-user certificate and the same amount towards shipping costs.

The NIA is looking for another NSCN leader who is now believed to be in Ruili, a Chinese town bordering Myanmar, which is an arms hub.

In Manipur, the UNLF is said to have hit a simple idea to use slush money.

Three of UNLF’s best financial brains formed an agro company and even got a subsidy from the Centre around 2005 and then got a loan from a bank in Imphal. But they returned the money the very next day in small transactions from different donors.

“We found these people were all bogus names,” said an investigator.