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Golfer Jyoti Randhawa arrested on poaching charges also in DRI’s firearms report

Randhawa, and his Italian mastiffs were also involved in the controversial shooting of Avni, a tigress, in Yavatmal last month by Asghar Ali Khan.

india Updated: Dec 28, 2018 00:07 IST
Wednesday’s arrest of Jyoti Randhawa and a friend by forest guards on charges of poaching in the Katarniya ghat sanctuary in the jungles of Dudhwa, Uttar Pradesh comes 18 months after his name figured in an investigation by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on the illegal import of firearms from Slovenia by competitive shooters who were also allegedly involved in poaching.(PTI)

Wednesday’s arrest of Jyoti Randhawa and a friend by forest guards on charges of poaching in the Katarniya ghat sanctuary in the jungles of Dudhwa, Uttar Pradesh comes 18 months after his name figured in an investigation by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on the illegal import of firearms from Slovenia by competitive shooters who were also allegedly involved in poaching.

Randhawa has, over the past few years, also been trying his hand at shooting.

On June 2, 2017, the Delhi zonal unit of the DRI submitted a report to the court of the chief metropolitan magistrate, Delhi, and sought a judicial remand for shooter Prashant Bishnoi, who was arrested earlier on charges of importing a huge quantity of arms and ammunition from Slovenia by misusing import rules that were relaxed for competitive shooters. The probe revealed that firearms that are not used in competitive shooting were imported along with equipment that is used in hunting. The actual price of these firearms was never declared and they were sold to civilians at a heavy premium, the report said.

The probe had begun on 29 April, 2017 when the DRI intercepted shooters Anil Kumar Langan and Amit Goyal and Slovenian arms dealer Boris Sobotic Mikolic at Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi and found a cache of firearms in their possession. A subsequent raid on Bishnoi’s Meerut residence led to the seizure of a huge quantity of firearms, ammunition, shooting equipment, cash, animal parts and frozen meat. Bishnoi escaped but was arrested on May 31 that year.

In its report, a copy of which has been seen by HT, DRI told the Delhi court on June 2 2017 that Randhawa’s name surfaced twice during its investigation.

On Page 8, Randhawa’s name is listed among that of 10 people who “bought weapons from Mikolic in similar fashion of undervaluation/under-invoicing.” Page 9 of the report says: “One leopard was killed by him (Bishnoi) in the intervening night of 14-15 April, 2017 near Sitamadhi resort near Jim Corbett National Park.” It adds that after killing the leopard, Bishnoi informed Randhawa. The raid on Bishnoi’s residence yielded around 100 firearms, 200,000 cartridges, silencers and night vision devices along with deerskins, antlers and other animal parts. “Photos of videos published after Randhawa’s arrest on Wednesday clearly show a .22 bolt-action rifle fitted with a telescopic sight and a silencer. The silencer mush have been imported separately for hunting,” an international shooter who knows Randhawa and did not wish to be named, said on Thursday. DRI report makes a clear reference to the import of silencers from Slovenia. It says Bishnoi visited Slovenia at least 12 times to import weapons. His associates also visited Slovenia and Mikolic, too, made several visits to India where he not only knew many shooters, but even took part in hunting trips.

“He (Bishnoi) declared only the major arms and barrels before Customs at the time of import . Butts, mechanisms, triggers, silencers, etc were not declared so that duty could be saved by him,” the DRI report says. DRI told the court that during the probe it learned that many Indian shooters were poaching endangered animals in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and other states. “Poaching was, however, not what we were probing. DRI was only looking into misuse of rules (to import firearms) and duty evasion,” a DRI official who was associated with the probe said on condition of anonymity. Randhawa and Mahesh Birajdar an ex Navy officer are currently lodged in Bahraich jail in Uttar Pradesh. The two were staying in a farmhouse owned by the former’s father in a village next to the sanctuary. They were apprehended by the Special Tiger Protection Force which saw them roaming about the sanctuary in their vehicle over three days.

Dudhwa Tiger Reserve field director Ramesh Kumar Pandey also reached the sanctuary on Thursday to investigate the incident and to collect the evidences of poaching. The field director said preliminary investigations suggest that Randhawa entered the sanctuary along with Italian mastiff dogs on two consecutive days. He added that it does seem like the hunting was done inside the sanctuary area, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

Randhawa, and his Italian mastiffs were also involved in the controversial shooting of Avni, a tigress, in Yavatmal last month by Asghar Ali Khan.

(Shariq Rais Siddiqui in Bahraich contributed to this story).

First Published: Dec 28, 2018 00:07 IST