Crime Branch is currently investigating allegations that an excise officer in Vapi, Gujarat, abetted the local methanol mafia’s illicit operations in exchange for a R10 cut on every litre of the toxic liquor that eventually killed 106 in Mumbai
In its investigation of the Malwani hooch tragedy, the Crime Branch has turned its scanner on an excise department official in Gujarat, who is suspected to have turned a blind eye to the methanol mafia, eventually resulting in the death of at least 106 victims in Mumbai from the toxic liquor.
Mumbai hooch tragedy: Dealer ran out of ethanol, used methanol
The accused in the Malwani hooch tragedy were produced at the Esplanade court yesterday. The Crime Branch is still in the midst of investigations. Pic/Atul Kamble
mid-day had reported earlier that the Crime Branch had learnt that the lethal methanol was brought from dealers in Gujarat, primarily from Vapi (‘How methanol mafia killed over 100 in the city’, June 22). Cops said that Vapi had several industrial units that manufactured ink and chemicals, and, accordingly, had licence to use about 40,000 litres of methanol for this purpose. However, many of these units would sell the methanol to illicit dealers.
The excise officer in Vapi, who is currently being probed by the Crime Branch, was reportedly in charge of ensuring such illegal deals did not take place.
As an added precaution, the official was supposed to add bitter substances to the methanol to make it unpalatable for drinkers as well.
But after the arrest of another accused from Gujarat, Kishore Patel (one of the methanol suppliers), the cops learnt that the excise officer may have neglected his duty in exchange for a cut of R10 per litre of methanol, said sources in the Crime Branch.
“We are investigating the excise officer’s role in relation to our case and if it is confirmed, he will be arrested,” said Joint Commissioner of Police Atulchandra Kulkarni, of the Mumbai Crime Branch.
Deadly mistake by newbie?
The Crime Branch is also investigating another angle to the case — that the methanol poisoning may have taken place due to an error committed by a newbie in the business. A Crime Branch source said that one of the accused, who is currently on the run, was new to the business and was responsible for the supply of ethanol (drinking alcohol) to the bootleggers, but instead supplied lethal methanol to them by mistake, leading to the worst hooch tragedy Mumbai has seen. “After we arrest him, it will become clear what had happened, but, preliminarily, we have learnt that he was new and it was his mistake that led to the incident,” said a senior officer investigating the case.