Bengal carcass meat probe: Cops posed as traders to nab key players; bank accounts under scanner
Till a West Bengal police team arrested Biswanath Ghorui, one of the key suspects in the carcass meat racket, on May 2, his neighbours in Sonarpur town in South 24 Parganas district were under the impression that he had built three eye-catching multi-storied houses for his family with money from fish exports.
“The amount of asset some of the key players have is mind-boggling. They were masters at masquerading as businessmen. Ghorui, for example, was known to all as a big-time fish exporter. Nobody ever suspected that he was selling carcass meat,” said an investigating officer on condition of anonymity. “We seized account books and a computer from Ghorui’s office. The computer has been sent to the cyber cell. We are trying to trace his partners,” the officer added.
Koteswara Rao Nalvath, superintendent of police, Diamond Harbour district, said on Saturday, “We have already approached the banks where these people have accounts so that details of transactions they made can be recovered.”
The racket was first detected on April 20 at Budge Budge in South 24 Parganas district, about 28 km from Kolkata. Thirteen people, including Manik Mukherjee, a former CPI(M) leader (the party expelled him in 2010), have so far been arrested. After interrogating Ghorui, police arrested Eklaq Sheikh and Sikander on suspicion of playing a key role in supplying carcass meat to traders in Kolkata and surrounding districts. The racket used to procure meat from at least 12 dumping grounds to keep the supply chain running.
“Assets amassed by some of the key players clearly indicate that the business saw a huge turnover. Another key player, Sarafat Hussain, built a huge house with all modern amenities at Kalyani in the North 24 Parganas. Kaushar Ali Dhali, who ran two poultry farms but supplied all the dead chicken to eateries, owns two big houses. We suspect Dhali is hiding in Bangladesh. Police stations along the border have been alerted,” said an officer of Budge Budge police station who did not want to be named.
Nabbing the suspects was not an easy task, the officer said. “We visited several markets posing as meat traders or owners of catering business. That’s how we could convince people to talk,” added the officer.
On Saturday, officers of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and their counterparts in Chandernagore and Champdani in Hooghly district and Dum Dum, Kamarhati and Bongaon in North 24 Parganas districts raided several eateries to check food samples. Two eateries were sealed after stale meat was found in the freezers.
On Monday, civic officials at Katwa town in East Burdwan district raided a dozen hotels and eateries and found substandard fish and meat items in several kitchens. One eatery was sealed. In South 24 Parganas district, Sonarpur municipality installed close circuit cameras inside a dumping ground to keep an eye on movement of people.
On Thursday and Friday, BJP and Congress leaders had blocked roads outside the KMC headquarters in central Kolkata, demanding arrest of the kingpins.
Kolkata and nighbouring districts have witnessed massive decline in sale of raw, processed and cooked meat. Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has asked its suppliers in Bengal not to store frozen meat.