Thursday 24 June 2021
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Cattle smuggling money funding terrorism for decades

CBI registered a case on 21 September and, three days later, raided locations in Kolkata before the ED initiated a case of money-laundering

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered a money laundering case against Satish Kumar, who was a commandant in the Border Security Force (BSF), in connection with a cattle smuggling case across West Bengal-Bangladesh border. Proceeds from cattle smuggling have been funding terrorist activities for more than a decade, but the authorities are yet to come up with a foolproof method of tackling the menace.

The ED filed the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. It follows the FIR that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) lodged in the cattle smuggling case.

On 17 November, the CBI arrested Kumar for his alleged involvement in cattle smuggling across the border. Before his arrest, Kumar was questioned by the CBI at the agency’s Kolkata office for several hours. Another accused, Enamul Haque, who is a trader, has also been arrested by the CBI.Kumar was posted as a commandant in the 36 Battalion of BSF in Malda district from 19 December, 2015, to 22 April, 2017.

Kumar is presently serving at the BSF unit in Raipur. The CBI registered the case on 21 September. On 23 September, the CBI carried out searches across several locations in Kolkata.

According to an FIR by the CBI, the then commandant, 36 Battalion, BSF, three individuals, unknown public servants and others were booked on allegations of illegal trade of cattle along the West Bengal-Bangladesh border.

A CBI officer said on condition of anonymity that according to the agency’s FIR more than 20,000 cows were seized by the BSF when Kumar was posted as commandant of the 36th Battalion between May 2016 and May 2017. However, neither was any smuggler arrested nor the vehicles used for ferrying the cattle seized, the FIR says.

The case was registered in 2018 after a BSF commandant, who served in Bengal, was booked in Kerala. The probe revealed a nexus between government officers and cow traders. It is alleged that cattle seized by the BSF were auctioned within 24 hours with the help of a few customs officers so that cattle traders could buy these at a very low price and legally sell them again.

The CBI is probing charges that for every cow seized and sold through this nexus, BSF officials used to get Rs 2,000 and custom officials used to get Rs 500, according to the CBI FIR that HT has seen. In addition, customs officials used to allegedly get 10 per cent of the auction price as a bribe.

CBI officers suspect that a large amount of money was sent to other states through hawala operators.

Cattle smugglers’ money funds terrorism

In 2008, security personnel of Uttar Pradesh had said that a substantial part of what was then a capital worth Rs 15,000 from cattle smuggling was funding terrorists. That year, one Mizanur Rehman was the key accused in the kidnapping of Kolkata-based proprietor of Khadim Shoes, Partho Burman. Mizanur’s younger brother, Azizur Rehman Sardar, 22, was found to be a Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI) terrorist serving time in Lucknow jail.

Mizanur was known also to be a trusted aide of HuJI area commander Jalaluddin, alias Babu Bhai, who was then in Lucknow jail. A part of the Rs 4 crore ransom in the Burman abduction case was suspected to have been diverted to Omar Sheikh, one of the alleged killers of US journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan.

Azizur Rehman used to ferry arms and explosives from Bangladesh to India. Before that, the West Bengal resident operated as a cattle smuggler along the India-Bangladesh border. So did his other three associates arrested with him in June 2007.

In August 2016, Deputy Inspector General Bharti Arora, who was also the special presiding officer of a police squad for curbing cow smuggling, had claimed that cow smuggling and slaughtering was an organised crime and money from it was used in terrorism. “Cows are smuggled from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and other states to Bangladesh via Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The BSF works hard to check smuggling. The UP and West Bengal police had unearthed such gangs in 2008,” she had told the media.

Reputed online journal compilation JSTOR has a study by Chukwuma Okoli that “explores the nexus between cattle rustling and the Boko Haram insurgency by way of ascertaining how proceeds from the former is (sic) used to fund the latter”.

“By means of secondary research, predicated on the theory of terrorism financing,” the article by Okoli “argues that material and financial proceeds from cattle rustling have been deployed to fund and sustain Boko Haram operations. The study underscores the strategic implications of cattle rustling as a veritable source of terrorism financing and contends that dismantling cattle rustling infrastructure (the sources, syndicates, networks, markets, routes, transits, etc.) is key to counter-insurgency efforts in Nigeria”.

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