Here’s All You Need To Know About Bengal’s Cattle Smuggling Scam That Netted Trinamool Strongman Anubrata Mandal
Acting on complaints, the CBI started probing the cattle smuggling racket in 2017 and zeroed in on some senior BSF officers.
The trail ultimately led to Anubrata Mandal.
Every year, lakhs of bovines are smuggled out of India through the porous stretches of the India-Bangladesh border to the neighbouring country.
This smuggling racket is very lucrative since a bovine from India fetches twice the price in Bangladesh. For instance, an adult bovine (cow or buffalo) purchased from UP or Bihar for about Rs 50,000 sells for at least Rs 90,000 in Bangladesh in normal times and up to Rs. 1.5 lakh during Eid.
The bovines are transported in trucks from northern India and off-loaded in ‘holding areas’ near the international border, especially in Malda and Murshidabad districts where many stretches of the border are riverine and are, thus, unfenced.
The bovines are then taken to Bangladesh through designated river routes. But the smugglers operate under the patronage of local politicians, musclemen, local police and civil administration officials, and, as multiple reports suggest, even the BSF and customs officials.
Everyone receives bribes from the smugglers for every head of cattle smuggled across the border. According to people in the know, of the roughly Rs 25,000 (on an average) that a smuggler makes per head of cattle, he pays Rs 10,000 as bribes to politicians and officials.
According to a conservative estimate, around 1.5 lakh bovines are smuggled out through Bengal to Bangladesh every year. This racket, thus, generates around Rs 150 crore as bribes every year; bribes paid to local politicians, police, babus, and others.
That’s not all. Of every 100 heads of cattle that are successfully smuggled out, it is estimated that the BSF ‘apprehends’ about 15 of them. That’s because the BSF has to show ‘seizures’ as proof of its effective vigil along the border.
But there’s a racket here as well. The BSF shows the size of the cattle seized as smaller than their actual size in the seizure memo. This reduces their value at the auctions for the seized cattle conducted by the BSF and customs officials locally.
And the BSF and customs officials allegedly allow only the smugglers they have a nexus with to participate in the auctions where the seized cattle is sold for much less than their actual value. The smugglers then merrily send the cattle they ‘buy’ at the rigged auctions across the border to Bangladesh!
It is alleged that the BSF and customs officials generally take 10 per cent of the price of the auctioned cattle from the smugglers who buy the seized cattle at the auctions. Very often, the smugglers who purchase the cattle at the auctions are the ones from whom the cattle is seized by the BSF in the first place!
How the racket unfolded
Acting on complaints, the CBI started probing the cattle smuggling racket in 2017 and zeroed in on some senior BSF officers. The central agency Jibu D Mathew, commandant of the 83rd battalion of the BSF stationed along the international border in Bengal’s Murshidabad district.
Mathew was caught with over Rs 47 lakh in cash while he was travelling to his home state, Kerala, in January 2018. Mathew confessed that the cash found on him was bribes he received from smugglers.
The CBI started investigating this and carried out raids across Bengal and other parts of the country, including Uttar Pradesh. Another BSF commandant--Satish Kumar--was found to be involved in the racket.
Kumar was the commandant of the BSF’s 36th battalion posted in Malda from December 19, 2015 to April 22, 2017. During Kumar’s tenure (of less than one and half years) as the CO of the 36th battalion, his men seized 20,000 heads of cattle. But, says the CBI, the vehicles that were used by the smugglers for transporting the cattle and the smugglers themselves were not arrested.
Kumar was arrested by the CBI in November 2020, his properties have also been seized and his bank accounts frozen.
Kumar told his CBI interrogators that Anubrata Mandal was the kingpin of the racket and the proceeds of the entire racket goes to him. Kumar also named three Bengal-based cattle traders--Muhammad Enamul Haque, Anarul Sheikh and Muhammad Gulam Mustafa. All of them have links with Mandal.
The CBI also zeroed in on the then Trinamool leader Vinay Mishra who was close to Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek. Mishra fled the country in September 2020, days before the CBI registered a case against him. He subsequently renounced his Indian citizenship and is now a citizen of Vanuatu.
Six Bengal police officers are also under the scanner of the CBI.
Satish Kumar and other battle smugglers reportedly told the CBI that Saigal Hossain, a Bengal Police constable who was one of Anubrata Mandal’s bodyguards, used to collect bribes on Mandal’s behalf.
Hossain was arrested in June this year and CBI sleuths discovered that the police constable was the owner of assets worth nearly Rs 150 crore. Hossain reportedly told his CBI interrogators that he used to collect money from smugglers on Mandal’s behalf.
Based on investigations, the CBI raided 13 locations in Bengal, including the residences of Mandal’s aides Karim Khan and Ziaul Haque, and a stone merchant, Tulu Mandal, who is known to be close to Anubrata Mandal. CBI sleuths claim many incriminating documents were seized during the raids.
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