Over a hundred illegally imported firearms, 117 kg of nilgai meat, horns and skins of leopards and blackbucks were allegedly seized today in raids, including at the residence of a retired colonel, with the DRI claiming to have busted a global poaching syndicate.
Of the seizures made, 117 kg nilgai (blue bull) meat stored in a refrigerator, animal skins, ivory, five deer skulls, horns of sambar deer, antlers of antelope and blackbuck and 40 guns were seized from a makeshift warehouse at the house of a retired army colonel in Meerut, a DRI and a forest department official said.
The 17-hour-long raid at the retired colonel’s Civil Lines residence was carried out jointly by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the state forest department officials. The raid continued till 3.30 am on Sunday.
The colonel’s son Prashant is a national level shooter and a key suspect in the case, a DRI official said. However, nothing specific has come out against the ex-army officer, he said.
One of the members of this international syndicate had recently killed a leopard near the Jim Corbett National Park area, a DRI official said.
Unaccounted cash of Rs one crore and two lakh cartridges were also seized, the official said.
The alleged racket came to light after three persons, including a Slovenian national, suspected to be a supplier of illegal arms, were intercepted on Saturday at the Delhi's Indira Gandhi International airport.
The trio had come to India by a Turkish Airlines flight from Ljubljana, Slovenia via Istanbul carrying 25 prohibited lethal weapons, a DRI official said.
They had incorrectly declared the quantity and value of the arms and ammunition to the customs officials and tried to get these items cleared by misusing the scheme meant for renowned shooters, he said.
Rules permit professional shooters to import a limited quantity of arms and ammunition for practice.
Following the information gathered from these persons, the DRI along with other agencies carried out the raids.
“Searches were conducted by DRI teams at the whereabouts of members of the syndicate in Delhi and Meerut and a huge cache of illegally imported arms and ammunition, large stock of hides, skulls and meat of the endangered animals were seized,” he said.
According to a press release issued by the DRI, firearms of various make and models--Glock (Austria), Italy-made Beretta, Arsenal, Benelle and Blaser (Germany) – were seized along with expensive cameras, thermal imaging binoculars and cartridges.
In the follow up action in Meerut, DRI teams found hides of leopard and blackbuck, skulls with horns of blackbuck, sambhar and meat of various endangered animals, it said.
“One of the suspects is believed to have recently killed a leopard near Jim Corbett area and processed the skin at his residence,” the DRI said in its statement.
Nobody has been arrested so far in the case and the shooter alleged to be part of the syndicate is at large, officials said.
In Meerut, Chief Conservator of Forests Mukesh Kumar said that the nilgai meat was seized from a refrigerator. A sample was taken and it will be sent to laboratory for testing.
Action will be taken under relevant provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, he said.