In a major crack down against the diesel mafia operation in the high sea around the Mumbai harbour, a team of Mumbai police’s Port Zone and Special Squad arrested six persons owing allegiance to an organised crime syndicate and seized 50,000 litres of diesel.
The police also seized a tug and a boat involved in smuggling.
The police, however, did not inform either the Coast Guard or the Navy, or pass the information to the joint operations centre (JOC).
The centre in lieu of the threat perception to Mumbai from the high sea, after the 26/11 terrorist attacks, had set up the JOC to conduct such operations in the high sea.
A senior coast guard officer said, “Considering the threat perception that Mumbai is under, it is appalling that Mumbai police did not bother to share the intelligence input.”
The six arrested have been identified as Noor Mohammed Bacchu Qureshi alias Chotta Noora, 43, Mohammed Sattar Ali Abdul Aijaz Ali, 28, Niyaz Ahmed Siraj Amjad Sheikh, 22, Jageshwar Amat Mahato, 30, Aijaz Musa Abdullah Tara, 31, and Nandlal Baijo Mahato alias Nandu, 46.
Deputy commissioner of police Khaiser Khalid said, “Based on a specific tip-off about diesel smuggling, we conducted the operation. We are investigating the whereabouts of the ship.”
Giving details of the operation, Rakesh Sharma, senior police inspector of Mumbai police’s special squad, said, “This illegal activity had been going for long, and almost all agencies, including the Coast Guard, Navy and Mumbai Port Trust knew about it. But nobody wanted to take action.”
He said, “Barges (or tugs) take requisite permission from port and naval authorities to facilitate a cargo ship to empty its slurry. Armed with this permission, they would then approach a cargo ship in the high sea.”
Once they were near the ship, the master of the ship emptied the diesel into the barge so as to avail the ship’s full quota of fuel from the port authorities.
“The masters of the ship knew about such smuggling syndicates and would inform them when they were due to enter the Mumbai harbour,” he added.
The smuggling syndicate according to the police is run by a group of four people identified as Akbar, Bada Noora, Sohail and Chotta Noora, who was arrested on Sunday.