Bhubaneswar: The Crime Branch’s Special Task Force has sought the help of Interpol to arrest members of an international syndicate of poachers involved in the illegal trade in pangolin scales, an endangered species.
The STF has arrested six members of the gang operating in India including the mastermind, Amir Hussain Laskar, of Assam. The STF has also found the route of the trade from India to its final destination in China.
The STF took charge of investigations into the case June 25, after the arrest of one Shaymsuddin and his son Allarakha Khan by forest officials of the Mahanadi Wildlife division at Daspalla June 19.
During interrogation the father and son said that they were engaged in the illegal business since 10 years. They used to collect the scales of pangolins from poachers in Kandhamal, Rayagada, Baudh and Kalahandi of Odisha, Kanker Dahmtri and the Bastar area of Chattisgrah and the Balghat, Seoni, Chhindwara areas of MP and Gondiya, Chandrapur and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra.
Later, they used to send the scales to Guwahati by trains and sometimes by trucks carrying leather and watermelon. From Guwahati, pangolin scales are transported to Aizwal via Silchar.
Laskar, a resident of Silchar, is the main trader in the international syndicate of pangolin poachers. The father-son duo from Odisha supplied the scales to Laskar. During interrogation, Laskar said that he used to send his agent Amulya Mandal of Coochbehar in West Bengal by train to collect the scales from Berhampur and Khurda.
According to STF, Shyamsuddin’s son, Allarakha Khan, sometimes delivered the scales to Laskar in Guwahati.
The STF claimed that Laskar is the biggest trader of pangolin scales in India. Scales collected from all over India will be ultimately delivered to Laskar. He also named some other traders like Jamshed, Mustaq, Kurban and some more in AP and West Bengal.
Laskar sends the scales through his agents to Myanmar via Manipur. He has strong links in Myanmar from where the scales are sent to Vietnam and then to China.
The STF arrested Laltan Lunga from Kolasib in Mizoram and he was granted bail on health grounds. Apart from Lunga, the STF team arrested Mahammad Riaz of Sorada in Ganjam and Rabani Khan of Baliguda village in Kandhamal.
Earlier, Shyamsuddin Khan was arrested in August 1996 while carrying 20 leopard skins by Athgarh forest officials. The father and son are also involved in two cases under the Wildlife Act registered at Seoni and Balghat by Madhya Pradesh forest officials.
Shyamsuddin was also involved in sandalwood smuggling. Pangolin scales which cost Rs 12,500 per kg in India is worth around Rs Rs 2 lakh in the international market.