The Mumbai Crime Branch and local police have formed teams to crack down on the methanol mafia in Gujarat and other states even as more evidence is emerging of cops being hand-in-glove with the bootleggers, who reportedly also had political patronage.
A file photo of Francis D’Mello, one of the major sellers of spurious liquor, with a bottle of scotch whisky, which costs upwards of Rs 5,800
Crime Branch officials told mid-day yesterday that illegal liquor sellers revealed during questioning that each seller paid R600 a month to senior officials in Malwani so that they would look the other way while they went about distributing the hooch.
Two of the accused, Agnes Gracy (50) and Mamata Rathod (30) were produced in the Killa Court yesterday and remanded in police custody till June 25. Pic/Shadab Khan
But for the tragedy last week, cops would have continued to pocket the measly sum while the sellers went about ruining people’s lives. “The monthly package was fixed for cops.
Once in a month, a policeman from the Malwani police station used to visit and take Rs 600 in the name of senior officers. This has been going on for many years, the sellers have revealed,” said an official.
mid-day had reported on the methanol mafia yesterday and, according to Crime Branch officials, four special teams have already reached Ahmedabad, Surat, New Delhi and an undisclosed location in Uttar Pradesh and have began rounding up suppliers of methanol.
Investigations have revealed that the prime accused Francis D’Mello, whose liquor hoard was raided, leading to his arrest yesterday, is a major supplier of spurious alcohol in Malwani, as well as a major purchaser of methanol from a Gujarat-based supplier.
“Keeping the high demand in the monsoons in mind, on June 17, a day before the tragedy, Francis had mixed methanol and water in the brewed alcohol that he had received to nearly double its quantity. We suspect this is what led to the deaths,” said a Crime Branch officer.
Having conducted several raids following the June 18 tragedy, investigating teams have also learnt that the major dealers who have been arrested have criminal records and cases in Malwani police station.
Officials told them that whenever local police would try to take strict action against big dealers, local politicians from different parties would mount pressure on them to charge the dealers with minor offences and let them go.
Toll and arrests
The toll into the Malwani hooch tragedy stands at 104, with more than 40 still recuperating in different hospitals. Of the seven people arrested by the Crime Branch so far, Mamata Rathod (30) and Agnes Gracy (50), were produced in Killa Court yesterday and were remanded in police custody till June 25. The rest are also in police custody.