The Mumbai police are considering the oil mafia as one of the likely suspects behind the killing of journalist J Dey as he had carried a story against them recently, which, sources say, could have angered them.
According to police estimates, the annual turnover of the fuel racket across the state is around Rs 10,000 crore and Mumbai plays an important part in it. Also, the players are of all kinds - small, big, local and international, police said.
"There are several ways this racket functions," an officer at the Yellow Gate police station said on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media. There are vessels that come from abroad and anchor outside the Mumbai port, he said. "Many of these don't use all their engines and sell extra fuel to owners of small boats and dhows near the shore at throwaway prices. The buyers route this fuel to some petrol pumps in south Mumbai," the officer said. He said the network was widespread and apart from the underworld, even names of politicians cropped up in probes.
"The murder of Chand Madar on P D'Mello Road last year was also linked to the oil mafia," the officer said while adding that the name of an underworld figure had also come up during investigations.
"That gangster was released from jail a few months before the Madar murder and he was looking at controlling activities of the docks which would have included the highly profitable fuel racket," he said.
A Customs officer who had worked extensively against the oil mafia told HT that the dhows have special compartments to smuggle fuel in.