Mumbai hooch tragedy: Methanol mixed in killer brew stolen in Gujarat?

Acting on a tip-off, Crime Branch officials arrested 50-year-old Subhash Giri from Vadodara, whose gang used to steal methanol from tankers in Gujarat by keeping the drivers distracted; he then sold the chemical at a low cost to a middleman, who supplied it to hooch dealers in Malwani and other places in Mumbai

More than a month after 104 people lost their lives in the Malwani hooch tragedy, Crime Branch officials have managed to trace the source of the methanol that was mixed in the killer brew to tankers in Gujarat, from where it was stolen by 50-year-old Subhash Giri.

Also read: Mumbai hooch victims were not consuming liquor, but poison, say forensic scientists

Cops suspect that the methanol mixed in the hooch that killed 104 people in Malwani was also bought from Giri. File pic
Cops suspect that the methanol mixed in the hooch that killed 104 people in Malwani was also bought from Giri. File pic

Giri, who was arrested from Vadodara and brought to Mumbai yesterday, is also one of the main accused in the July 2009 Gujarat Hooch tragedy that claimed 136 lives.

Crime Branch officials said Giri used to steal methanol from tankers in Gujarat by distracting the drivers and then sold it at a low cost to a middleman, Kishore Patel, who supplied it to dealers in Malwani and other places in Mumbai. Patel was arrested by the Crime Branch on June 25, a week after the tragedy.

Out on bail
“Giri was out on bail and, during this period, he formed a gang of four. They would steal methanol and ethanol from tankers and sell them at a low cost,” said an official, adding that the gang’s modus operandi was ingenious: Giri would befriend drivers transporting these chemicals at dhabas during their dinner breaks and would keep them distracted with small talk, while his accomplices stole the chemicals and fled.

Mumbai hooch tragedy: Excise official helped methanol mafia for Rs 10-cut on each litre?

Speaking to mid-day, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Sunil Deshmukh said, “Giri was arrested from Vadodara on Friday. He would sell the stolen chemicals to Kishore Patel. It was Patel who supplied methanol to the hooch makers in Malwani.”

Long chase
Patel was picked up by the cops on June 25 and it was he who had told Crime Branch officials about Giri’s involvement.

Patel had told them that he used to buy methanol from Giri and sell it to dealers in Mumbai. The drums of methanol found in a den owned by Francis D’Mello, a Malwani hooch dealer who is one of the main accused in the case, had also allegedly been sourced in this way.

Officials said they had launched a manhunt for Giri in June, but their initial attempt to trace him failed as his cellphone was switched off. Their second attempt to trace him through an address they had managed to find out also met with the same result.

Acting on a tip-off, they laid a trap for him in Vadodara yesterday and nabbed him. His accomplices, however, managed to flee. Giri was produced in the Esplanade Magistrate Court yesterday and was remanded in police custody till August 8.

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