Express Exclusive: Gun running cartel forged records of Army and paramilitary personnel, points Operation Zubaida
Sleuths probing the biggest fake gun running racket have asked the Army, paramilitary forces and J&K’s Home Department for copies of all records of arms licences issued in the last 10 years.
NEW DELHI: The Rajasthan Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) has summoned records of over 2,000 Army and paramilitary personnel on the suspicion that their credentials were used to procure fake arms licences while they were posted in Jammu & Kashmir. An ATS team is camping here to access the records, said a top source involved in the largest gun running racket takedown in India.
‘Operation Zubaida’ was a six-month investigation that culminated last month with the arrest of 24 people and seizure of thousands of fake licences and hundreds of guns from J&K, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.
The Sunday Standard expose last month revealed that 50,000 fake arms licences were issued from just one district of Kupwara. Identity cards of Army personnel and individuals of J&K were forged by the masterminds in connivance with government officials. The first lead about misuse of Army jawans’ credentials came from a suspect who was recently picked up.
“He was provided a licence and a gun in the name of a serving Army jawan in the Valley. We are seeking records of all licences issued by J&K authorities in the last 10 years,” sources said.
The ATS was planning to launch a probe in 21 more J&K districts, but the move has been stonewalled by the state government.
ATS officer Vikas Kumar told The Sunday Standard that several state licencing officials are involved in the racket, which could delay sharing inputs. They have approached a local court seeking intervention.
“J&K authorities are reluctant to share records of arms licences issued in the last 5-6 years. The responses we have received over the last one month are not very encouraging. Now we have executed a request through the court to access records from 21 remaining districts,” Kumar said.
A senior J&K officer said most of the records are maintained manually in the bulky registers and it may take months data before can be shared. Four more suspects were picked up earlier this week, who revealed yet another layer of gun running network controlled from J&K. In a majority of the cases, three guns were issued on one licence. While the beneficiaries originally received just one weapon, two were diverted to the black market.
A senior ATS officer said the suspects who ran the operation had lost track of hundreds of weapons, many of which have been linked to organised crime gangs in four states. “Three pages of the licence book are stamped where three guns were issued. Two pages of seized licences were removed to ensure the black marketing of guns,” a senior officer said.
The main suspect Rahul, a resident of Jammu, said government officials facilitated the fabricated process and no objections were raised while procuring licences and guns. Rahul is code named ‘Manufacturer’ in the investigation files, while Vishal is ‘Transporter’ and Zuber Mohammed acted as a ‘Show Room’.
“Rahul belongs to a middle class family and started his career as fixer in licensing authority’s office in J&K,” said Kumar.
Zuber’s relative Pyare Mohammed, who runs a legitimate gun shop, is suspected to have delivered weapons on forged licenses. Investigators are examining details of guns sold by Pyare Mohammed in the last 10 years. Zuber’s father Usman is another module who is absconding.
“We are looking into six-seven accounts with a leading bank in the Valley, which were used by the network to park the profit,” Kumar said.
Gun Licence Issued To 14-Year Old
Sleuths picked up a millionaire codenamed ‘Babu’ in Rajasthan earlier this week. He admitted possessing a fake gun licence and firearm from J&K, which he procured in 2014 in a back date of 2007 when he was just 14 years old. Many licences were issued on back dates to underage beneficiaries for around Rs 10-12 lakh.
Babu procured the licence and weapon after he returned from England in 2014. His father is a mine owner. The gun runners made a mistake by issuing licences in back dates—some licences forged in 2014 dated 2007 carried Aadhar as identity proof. Aadhar was not in existence in 2007.
The network had built a steady stream of clients with the help of influential businessmen. The modus operandi was disclosed by Zuber, who named a multi-millionaire from Jaipur as the fixer for the network. Some people from Srinagar also acted as conduits for a hefty commission.