Next time you pick up a box of fancy, imported chocolates from your local store, say a silent prayer. Pray the stuff you’ve just bought for your child didn’t first pass through the hands of a certain Shabir Syed of Dongri, Mumbai.
Syed and many others like him are allegedly in the business of making chocolate immortal. Police in Mumbai say he picked up chocolate that was past its consume-by date, erased the stamp, put a fresh date of expiry on the packet, and sold it back to the market.
Syed was arrested in a swoop on his den in the congested south Mumbai neighbourhood of Dongri on Saturday. His apparatus an ink-removing machine, stamp blocks, dyes and a mountain of dubious Toblerone, Lindt, Ferrero Rocher and Tiffany, estimated by police to be worth around
Rs 1.25 lakh, was seized.
Officers said Syed could be representing only the tip of a massive racket in fake or unsafe chocolates of sought-after brands. The cartel’s operations could be spread across all of Mumbai, and possibly in other Indian cities, including Delhi.
Inspector V Bhagwe of Dongri police station said Syed collected expired chocolates sold at Mumbai’s Chor Bazar by unscrupulous dealers or employees of grocery stores told by their employers to destroy the stock.
“Syed would reprint the expiry dates and send hundreds of batches back into the retail market through his assistants,” Bhagwe said. Police were looking for Syed’s partners in the crime, he added.
Syed and an alleged accomplice have been remanded in police custody till June 22. Their lawyers or families could not be contacted.