Drugs money used to buy Punjab VIP car, cell numbers

    By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

    Chandigarh : Money from a multi-billion-rupee racket in synthetic drugs was used by those involved in the illegal trade to fulfil a fancy and unusual wish – to lay hands on VIP numbers for high-end cars and mobile phones.

    Investigations by Punjab Police, who recently busted a major international racket in synthetic drugs worth nearly Rs.1,650-crore, have revealed that key people involved in the drugs trade were not only leading a flashy lifestyle but were using the ill-gotten money to buy the VIP car registration numbers at government auctions.

    A senior police officer of the Patiala police said that Jagjit Singh Chahal, an industrialist who has been arrested along with international wrestler-turned-police officer-turned-drugs kingpin Jagdish Bhola, had a penchant for VIP numbers for his high-end vehicles and mobile phones.

    “The verification of background of Jagjit Singh Chahal has revealed an opulent life style with a penchant for luxury cars having single digit numbers and single digit mobile numbers as well,” Patiala district police chief Hardayal Singh Mann told IANS.

    Chahal in June last year picked up the ‘CH-01-AN-0001’ series registration number for Rs.17 lakh at a government auction in Chandigarh.

    Chahal, who claimed that he was an agriculturist-businessman, bought the number for his Rs.85 lakh Toyota Land Cruiser SUV.

    Chahal and his family had claimed then that they had a liking for the number ‘0001’. He also claimed that his family has “other vehicles in our fleet with the 0001 number”.

    All those claims have now come true in Punjab Police investigations.

    The police have found that Chahal spent another nearly Rs.15 lakh to buy VIP numbers at government auctions in Punjab. Most of the cars for which he picked up these numbers were high-end ones, including Range Rover Freelander SUV, Toyota Prado SUV, Hyundai Terracan SUV and Honda Accord car. He even bought a ‘0001’ number for Rs.50,000 for his Hero Honda motorcycle.

    The police have recovered seven mobile phones from Chahal which also had VIP numbers (ending with 00001). He spent over Rs.3.5 lakh on buying these.

    Chahal’s pharmaceutical units were raided by the police in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh, 45 km from here, over the past one week and precursor chemicals worth Rs.925 crore in the international market were recovered.

    Mann said that police teams have recovered nearly one tonne of precursor chemicals like ephedrine, pseudoephedrine from the unit of MBP Pharmaceuticals Ltd., which is owned by Chahal. These were used to manufacture synthetic drugs like Ice and other party-circuit drugs.

    Raids on the units were made following disclosures by Bhola and Chahal during their interrogation.

    Punjab Police busted a racket in synthetic drugs worth Rs.700-crore in March this year.

    The Patiala police arrested the kingpin of the racket, dismissed Punjab Police deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Jagdish Bhola, and his four accomplices near the Haryana-Delhi border last week with drugs worth nearly Rs.20 crore.

    The well-oiled drugs network, in which nationals of other countries and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) were also allegedly involved, was operating in India, Canada and European countries, including Britain.

    (Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])