April 23, 2015 4:10:43 am
After giving police the slip for a month-and-a-half, Baby Patankar finally tripped on Wednesday.
The hunt for “the city’s largest meow-meow peddler” ended after the Mumbai Police tried the oldest trick in the book. With assets worth Rs 3 crore in her name, the police, which had a 100-member team chasing Baby alias Shashikala Patankar (54), used their “informant channel” to convey one “tiny little detail” to her — that her property stands to be attached and that would be “targeted if she did not surrender”.
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As detectives scanned her cartel’s route and reach, Patankar, in the last 45 days, managed to slip through the gaps. On her third attempt to sneak into her city, the 54-year-old, wanted for her alleged association with disgraced police constable Dharmaraj Kalokhe, turned into the city’s most prized police catch. Hoping that she would fall into their trap, the entire force waited for her to attempt entering the city limits to rescue her property. She was arrested at 12:45 am on Wednesday in a private luxury bus travelling from Kudal.
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“We never thought that the ploy would work so soon. It was a chance we took. And it paid off,” a senior IPS officer privy to the probe told The Indian Express. “On Tuesday afternoon, through our informant channel, we communicated to Baby that she would be targeted (killed) if she did not surrender. We also threatened to attach her property, which is worth around Rs 3 crore. By Wednesday morning, she was in our custody.”
Patankar’s last two visits to Mumbai came after an FIR was registered against her on March 9 and then later in the month to seek legal assistance. Both times she couldn’t be tracked as she never travelled with an active phone. Even on Wednesday, she was arrested with a phone that had no SIM card.
Crime Branch sources said that Patankar was travelling with her son Girish, his friend, and her niece, who is a minor. While Girish and his friend are currently in Crime Branch custody but have not been arrested yet, the niece has been produced before the Child Welfare Commission, said officers.
“On Wednesday morning, the Social Service Branch (SSB) received a tip off that Patankar was travelling from Kudal in the Konkan district to Mumbai in a private luxury bus. SSB officials laid a trap and intercepted the bus at Panvel, and Patankar was taken into custody along with three others,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Detection) Dhananjay Kulkarni.
“Patankar was subsequently placed under arrest. After being produced in court later in the day, she was remanded in police custody till April 28. The case was officially transferred from the Marine Drive police station to the Crime Branch on Wednesday, after Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria issued instructions to that effect. Unit I will now be investigating it,” he added.
The hunt began on March 9 when a police team seized 114 kg of mephedrone, commonly know as meow-meow, from the Satara home of constable Dharmaraj Kalokhe (52), attached with the intelligence wing of the Marine Drive police station. Kalokhe claimed that the haul, worth Rs 22.40 crore, belonged to a customs official and was given to him by Patankar for safekeeping.
Patankar’s younger son, Satish, was arrested by the Satara Police and handed over to the Mumbai Police on April 15. He is charged with transporting 12 kg of mephedrone from his mother to Kalokhe. The drug was later found in Kalokhe’s cupboard and a separate FIR was registered in this regard. Patankar, who was accused of providing the drugs to Kalokhe, was wanted since then, and several teams of the Mumbai Police, including one team from each unit of the Crime Branch, had been looking for her.
“Patankar was found to be in possession of a cell phone without a SIM card when she was arrested. She was searched but no SIM card was found on her person. It is possible that she was carrying a SIM card separately but threw it away when the police team stopped the bus,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Atulchandra Kulkarni.
Jt CP Kulkarni added that Patankar would now be interrogated regarding her association with Kalokhe, her network in Mumbai, the reasons behind her coming to Mumbai despite knowing that there was a citywide manhunt for her, and her movements from the day Kalokhe was arrested till the time of her arrest. Police, in the last one month, have been able to map Patankar’s movement through her family members’ phone call data records. During this period, she travelled to Surat, Delhi and Agra to evade arrest.
Crime Branch sources said at least four policemen, one with the Nashik Rural police and three with the Mumbai police, will now be questioned about their association with Patankar, and she, too, will be interrogated about the same.
Satara police, too, will seek Patankar’s custody to interrogate her in connection with their case. “Like the Mumbai Police, our priority is also to locate the source from where she acquired the drugs,” said Satara Police Superintendent Abhinav Deshmukh. Kalokhe’s lawyer Naveen Chomal told The Indian Express that Patankar’s relatives had approached them early on Wednesday evening, asking them to represent her in court. “We handled her past cases in Satara and Vashi in which she was granted anticipatory bail, but she was not in touch with us for over a month,” Chomal said.
Kalokhe is alleged to have come into contact with Patankar in 1996, when he was posted at the Worli police station. Patankar has been operating as a drug peddler since the late 1980s, eventually becoming a known supplier of brown sugar and hashish. She is known to have been arrested on only one occasion — by the Worli unit of the Anti Narcotics Cell in 2001 for possession of 10 grams of brown sugar. Before being named as a wanted accused by the Satara police, she was named as an accused by the Mumbai Police’s Anti Narcotics Cell in December last year and the Manickpur police station in Vasai in January this year, but was not arrested on either occasion.
The probe so far has found evidence to suggest that Patankar gave the police a tip off about Kalokhe as she feared he would get her arrested in the drugs case. “Only two of them were aware about the consignment. While sharing the information about the contraband, she was very specific, even detailing the exact place where the drug was hidden in the bungalow next to Kalokhe’s ancestral house in Satara. She wanted the police to immediately arrest him,” a senior police officer privy said.
The police will now confront the accused with each other to figure out whom the drugs belonged to, and who benefited from them. “This will reveal the owner of the contraband and the real motive behind Baby sharing information with the police,” the officer added.
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