National-level shooter Prasant Bishnoi held as arms racket probe gathers steam
A raid on Bishnoi’s ancestral residence in Meerut yielded a huge cache of imported weaponry, animal parts, meat and Rs 1 crore in cash.india Updated: Jun 03, 2017 14:15 IST
Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials arrested national-level shooter Prasant Bishnoi, one of the main suspects in the arms-smuggling operation busted by the agency in April, after he appeared before them in New Delhi on Thursday.
“A special court in Delhi had rejected Bishnoi’s plea for anticipatory bail. He was on the run, but we arrested him last night,” a DRI official told HT on condition of anonymity. The sportsperson’s passport was seized earlier to prevent him from leaving the country.
The DRI recovered more than 100 firearms and 200,000 cartridges between April 28 and 30.
The agency had initially arrested two shooters – Amit Goel and Anil Kumar Langan – and Slovenian arms dealer Boris Sobotic Mikolic from the Delhi international airport. A subsequent raid on Bishnoi’s ancestral residence in Meerut yielded a huge cache of imported weaponry, animal parts, meat and Rs 1 crore in cash.
The national-level shooter is the son of a retired Army colonel, Devendra Kumar Bishnoi, a veteran of the Bangladesh war.
“We are investigating this case from several angles. There are many leads to be followed,” the official said.
The Uttar Pradesh police may press separate charges under the Indian Arms Act in light of the arms and ammunition seized from Bishnoi’s residence, he added.
Bishnoi had visited the DRI office on Thursday, in adherence to summons issued against him on several occasions. He was arrested, and then subjected to an interrogation. “He is just one of the many faces in this international racket. There are many more suspects across the country,” said a DRI official.
Investigators found that unscrupulous elements have been taking advantage of lenient import regulations for renowned shooters like Bishnoi to bring large quantities of firearms into the country. Many of these weapons were sold at sky-high prices to civilians who possess valid gun licences but are barred from importing guns due to a national ban enforced in 1984. The syndicate relied on extensive paperwork and gaps in import procedures to conceal its activities. Fake shooter identity papers were allegedly used to import guns that cannot be used for precision shooting. The DRI is following these paper trails to identify more suspects.
Pistols manufactured by Glock (Austria) and Beretta (Italy/USA), besides rifles by Blaser (Germany), figure among the weapons seized by the DRI. Dealers said Glocks sell for anywhere between Rs 50-60 lakh in India, although the retail price in the US is just $600 (less than Rs 39,000). The Beretta Model 84 FS fetches Rs 25-35 lakh in the domestic market, although its American price is less than $700 (Rs 45,000). Blaser rifles sell for anywhere between Rs 18 lakh and Rs 40 lakh, depending on the accessories.
Meanwhile, the 117 kg of raw meat recovered from Bishnoi’s house has been found to be that of endangered animals. Divisional forest official Aditi Sharma said experts from the Wildlife Institute of India, who tested the samples, even discovered that some of these animals were not native to Uttar Pradesh. She refused to divulge further details of the test reports because it could hamper the ongoing investigation against Bishnoi and his father.