Thane drug seizure: Addicted to lavish life, man turned to drug smuggling

He had sampled the rich life his drug-peddling neighbours were leading, and was tempted to follow in their footsteps but ended up uncovering the smuggling racket

The 28-year-old man who led the Thane police to a bumper stash of drugs worth Rs 2,000 crore told the police he started smuggling drugs to fund his dreams of a lavish life.

Sagar Pawale said he was inspired by his former neighbours who would make over Rs 10,000 a day just by delivering the consignments
Sagar Pawale said he was inspired by his former neighbours who would make over Rs 10,000 a day just by delivering the consignments

In the last few months, he had his house redecorated, started travelling a lot and would spend liberally on himself and his family — proof that he had suddenly found an easy source of income, said cops.

Thane CP Param Bir Singh with the seized drugs; he said the cops were investigating whether the drugs net had spread internationally as well
Thane CP Param Bir Singh with the seized drugs; he said the cops were investigating whether the drugs net had spread internationally as well

But Sagar Suresh Pawale was arrested on April 12 along with his accomplice, Mayur Sukhandare (25) and they were found smuggling 2 kg of the narcotic, ephedrine. It was the two of them who then pointed the cops in the direction of the middle man Dhaneshwar Swami and, ultimately, to the source of the drugs — the Evon Life Sciences factory in Solapur, where they police seized nearly 20,000 kg of the drug.

Sagar, a resident of Rasayani in Raigad district, told the police that his first brush with drugs was about five years ago, when he used to live in Sainath Nagar in Kopri.

“Sagar used to spend most of his time with his neighbours — Firoz Shaikh and Jaishree. The duo would smuggle hashish, marijauna and mephedrone to make fast money. Sagar said he was inspired by them, as they used to earn more than Rs 10,000 daily, just by delivering the consignments. Shaikh and Jaishree were arrested by the Thane police in 2013, but Sagar said it took the police a long time to trace them,” said Senior Police Inspector Uttam Shelke, from the Anti-Narcotic Cell in the Thane Crime Branch.

So, when the middle man Swami approached him with the lure of easy money, Sagar agreed to take the risk and began smuggling. “The accused stated that Swami told them they could buy drugs for Rs 1 lakh from him and then sell it in the market for Rs 1.5 lakh and directly earn Rs 50,000 in a day,” added Shelke.

Sagar and his accomplice both worked as operators at a pharmaceutical company, and his father was proud of him for doing so well.

“Sagar’s father, Suresh was happy that his son was working in a well-known firm and earning well. He used to tell his friends that even though he had retired, he was living a lavish life thanks to his son. Sagar had installed an AC and had the whole house repainted and furnished. He would buy new clothes for himself and his family members and go on trips frequently. He would always send them his monthly salary,” said an official from the anti-narcotic cell.

The cop added that Sagar’s father had a hard time digesting that all this money had come from drugs.

Cops cast wider net
After the cops found that 18,627 kg of ephedrine was unaccounted for at the solapur factory of Avon Life Sciences Limited, they arrested the senior production manager, Rajendra Dimri. They will now also raid the company’s six remaining branches across the country and suspect the drug racket could have international links as well. “Two teams are already at Solapur, investigating the national and international links of the smuggling racket, and are also in search of the kingpin who is absconding,” said Thane Commissioner of Police Param Bir Singh.

A senior Crime Branch officer said, “We will soon raid all seven branches that are active across India. The main accused, Jain Mukhis, is absconding and the Gujarat police are also in search of him.”

Several investigation agencies such as the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad, Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Narcotics are all probing links to Friday’s drug bust. They suspect this case is connected to the recent seizure of 1,300 kg of ephedrine that was allegedly smuggled by the son of a former Congress MLA.

The Thane police also found that the smugglers used Goa and Delhi as meeting points to deal in international markets in south-eastern Europe.

“Goa and Delhi are the points that foreigners usually visit but they are also common destinations for domestic travellers, so the process of smuggling becomes easier,” a Thane Crime Branch officer added.

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