Catching drug peddlers was a job entrusted to Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Shajji Mohan. His switchover to the other side and being caught with 12 kg heroin in a Mumbai suburb has left everyone dumbstruck in Chandigarh.
The Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Sunday arrested Mohan with the drug consignment, estimated to be worth over Rs.120 million in the open market, from an undisclosed location in Oshiwara, a north-west Mumbai suburb, ATS chief KP Raghuvanshi told mediapersons in Mumbai.
The tip-off leading to his arrest was given by a constable, who was also arrested in a narcotics case earlier, the official said.
Belonging to the IPS batch of 1995 in the Jammu and Kashmir cadre, Mohan was the zonal director of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Chandigarh. He was transferred recently to Mumbai as deputy director in the Enforcement Directorate, Mumbai.
Mohan was brought before a magistrate on Sunday afternoon and remanded to police custody till January 30.
The NCB's north-western regional unit based in Chandigarh, during Mohan's tenure in Chandigarh, had made several 'sensational' seizures of drugs, especially heroin.
In 2008, the NCB in Chandigarh accounted for 52 kg of heroin haul.
Punjab and Chandigarh are considered major transit points for drugs, especially heroin, coming from Afghanistan through the Pakistan border.
In 2008, various agencies, including the anti-narcotics cell of the Punjab police, Border Security Force (BSF), the NCB and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized over 300 kg of heroin in the state. Drug abuse among youth in Punjab is rampant.
But while the seizures by other agencies kept going up, those by the NCB zonal unit did not match them. The drug trade from this region is said to be worth Rs 20 billion (Rs.2,000 crore), police officials in Chandigarh said.
Media friendly Mohan used to claim successes in several initiatives introduced under his tenure to curb the drug menace.
Operation Tri-city for Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali and Operation Cage against Pakistani drug peddlers working from inside jails in Punjab were two initiatives introduced during Mohan's tenure in Chandigarh.
"We have a certain tip-off that there are some Pakistan nationals in the jails of Punjab who are running this international drug racket from within the jail premises. They have an easy access to outer world through mobile phones. Our officials are keeping an eye on them," Mohan, NCB zonal director, had told IANS a few months ago.
The NCB under Mohan had even named over a dozen Chandigarh police personnel for being directly linked to drugs peddling in the tri-city. The police officials, who are being investigated, are under suspension.
The NCB came under a cloud of controversy after Lada, fiancé of Israeli national Lior Avi Ben Moyal, who was arrested by NCB officials February 2005 on charges of smuggling narcotics, levelled serious charges against Mohan and other NCB officials.
Lada claimed that she had evidence that NCB officials had confessed that Moyal was picked up from Panipat city in Haryana but shown as arrested in Chandigarh with a drug haul. She accused the NCB officials of demanding money to let off Moyal, and sought a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the matter.
Leading human rights lawyer Ranjan Lakhanpal had said that the "confessions" of the NCB officials were genuine.
Moyal had mysteriously 'escaped' from the NCB custody in Chandigarh after assaulting two armed officials but was caught soon after by a local lawyer who spotted him near the university campus.