Mumbai ED deputy director among 5 booked for stealing trailers, trying to resell them

Updated: 29 October, 2020 08:27 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Surat

An accused confessed to have worked as per the directions of ED officials and said he found a buyer for the trailer in Nasik

Photo for representation purpose
Photo for representation purpose

Five people, including a deputy director of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Mumbai, were booked for allegedly stealing and trying to sell trailers seized during an investigation against a Surat based firm. Three of them, including an informer of ED, Mumbai, were sent to judicial custody at Surat Central Jail on Monday, while two ED officials are yet to be arrested.

As per a report in The Indian Express, the trailers were seized from Siddhi Vinayak Logistics (SVL) in 2018, during a joint investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the ED, and were parked at a yard in Siyalaj village in Kosamba, Surat.

On October 16, a team of Surat Rural police stopped three trailers loaded with two trailers each, on suspicion at Kamrej toll plaza. When the drivers failed to produce required documents, police seized the trailers.

On interrogation, the drivers and cleaners told police that they were working for Mahadev Roadlines, Vapi, and the six trailers were loaded from a parking yard on NH-48. One Santosh Singh asked them to deliver it to Sanjay Jaiswal at Nashik in Maharashtra, they told police.

Police traced Santosh Singh and two others — Afsar Khan and Punaji Sawekar — residents of Wadala area in Mumbai — who disclosed the names of Deputy Director of ED Mumbai Praveen Salunke (2010 batch IRS officer) and Bheraram (ED inspector), involved in the racket of stealing trailers and selling them.

Surat Rural Local Crime Branch inspector BK Khachar registered an offence with Kosamba police station under IPC sections, 379, 119, 120 (b), 170, 201 and 381, against all five, including ED officials Salunke and Bheraram.

According to the FIR, "There were 207 trailers parked in the parking yard near Hotel Balwas on NH-48. Santosh and his gang had tampered with the registration numbers of the six stolen vehicles and were on their way to deliver them. ED officer Praveen Salunke and Santosh Singh struck a deal on October 11, according to which the trailers would be sold at Rs 2 lakh each, of which Santosh would get Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000, while remaining amount would go to ED officials. Salunke also told him that if anything goes wrong, he should take all the responsibility and their (ED officials), names should not come out. Santosh had recorded the conversation and sent it to his friend’s mobile phone via WhatsApp for his own safety."

The three men were arrested on October 22 and remanded for five days till Tuesday. They were again produced before Surat district court on Tuesday and were sent to judicial custody at the Surat district Central jail.

On September 4, 2018, Deputy General manager with Recovery and Assets Management branch of Bank of India, Mumbai, lodged a cheating complaint against Siddhi Vinayak Logistic (SVL) Firm, with offices at Hazira in Surat and Mumbai, and its four directors. The accused allegedly forged documents and availed of a loan of Rs 125 crore from the bank in 2015 for purchasing 418 commercial trailers. The SVL later turned NPA and failed to pay the loan installments.

Director of SVL, Rupchand Baid, had given a list of the firm’s vehicles with parking details to the CBI, the NCLT and ED. Some of the vehicles were seized later. The FIR at Kosamba police station states that Salunke and Bheraram knew about these seized vehicles and took advantage of the fact that the vehicles parked at the parking yard of Hotel Balwas were not in the list of seized vehicles sent to the adjudicating authority.

According to police, Santosh came to Surat on September 29 this year, identified himself as an ED officer to the security guard at the parking yard at Siyalaj village and told him that the department wanted to transport some of the trailers to Maharashtra. The next day Bheraram came to Surat, showed his identity card and took the guard’s help to get a JCB to break the wall of the yard to take the trailers. Santosh sent videos of the action to Salunke.

Santosh confessed to have worked as per the directions of ED officials and said he found a buyer for the trailer, Sanjay Jaiswal of Nasik.

Surat Cricle police inspector KV Chudasma said, “Santosh came down to Surat on October 15 and made arrangements to transport the trailers to Nasik, for which he contacted Mahadev Roadlines transport service at Balitha village to send three trailers on which such 20 feet and 40 feet trailers could be transported to Nashik… the trailers were stopped at Kamrej toll plaza on NH-48."

Surat district superintendent of police Usha Rada said, “Our teams are gathering evidences against both the ED officials based on which further action will be taken.”

"All the 207 trucks and trailers at the parking yard in Siyalaj village were seized by CBI and ED in cheating case against SVL directors. The total value of the vehicles parked there is over Rs 4.14 crore. They were caught in their first theft attempt," added Chudasama.

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First Published: 29 October, 2020 08:20 IST

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