BSF officials received Rs2,000 and customs officers Rs500 for each smuggled cow, according to the CBI FIR
The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been investigating the alleged involvement of several Border Security Force (BSF) and Customs officials for cattle smuggling along the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal, according to officials familiar with the probe.
In 2018, the case was filed when a BSF commandant who served in Bengal, was booked in Kerala, reports Hindustan Times.
Already, the probe has revealed a nexus between government officers and cattle smugglers.
According to the report, cattle seized by the BSF were auctioned within 24 hours with the help of some customs officers so that cattle traders could buy these at very low prices and legally sell them again.
CBI is investigating the allegations for every cow that was seized and sold through this nexus.
For each cow, BSF officials would get Rs2,000 and customs people got Rs500, according to the CBI FIR.
Furthermore, customs officials would allegedly get 10% of the auction price as a bribe, the Hindustan Times added.
A large sum of money from the auctions was sent to other states through hawala operators, CBI officers suspect.
On Wednesday, several raids were conducted by the CBI in 15 cities and towns of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. At the time a BSF officer’s residence in Salt Lake of Kolkata was sealed.
The accused BSF officer Satish Kumar, was a commandant in the South Bengal Frontier of the BSF. He is now posted in a neighbouring state.
The report added that Kumar’s home in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, was also raided. A senior BSF official of the South Bengal Frontier confirmed the matter on condition of anonymity.
According to the CBI’s FIR, more than 20,000 cows were seized by the BSF when Kumar was posted as commandant of the 36th Battalion from May 2016 to May 2017, a CBI officer said, on condition of anonymity.
However, no smuggler was arrested, nor were vehicles used to transport the cattle seized, the FIR said.
Illegal cattle trade involving millions of rupees
The alleged involvement of several BSF and customs officials in the illegal cattle trade involving millions of rupees is now being probed by the CBI.
The investigation is looking into whether cattle smugglers operating in West Bengal have any links with terror groups in Bangladesh, especially the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), the report said.
There was a nexus between some BSF and customs officers and the three cow traders, Muhammad Enamul Sheikh, Anarul Sheikh, and Muhammad Gulam Mustafa, mentioned in the FIR.
“The seizure lists of such seized cattle were prepared arbitrarily categorizing the breed and size of the seized animals with an intention to reduce the upset (minimum) price of the cattle during auctions.
“These cattle were then auctioned immediately (within 24 hours of seizure) with the help of the nearest Customs station in Jangipur, Murshidabad,” the FIR said.
“Since the cattle were shown mostly small in size and of common breed in the seizure memo of BSF, the auction value of such cattle was reduced and then procured at a considerably lower price by the traders due to their unholy nexus with officials of the Customs department also,” the CBI FIR reads.
Raids were conducted at several places in and around Kolkata, and also in Murshidabad and North 24 Parganas district, on Wednesday and Thursday, CBI officials confirmed.
In 2017, the CBI booked JD Mathew, a former commandant of the BSF 83rd Battalion posted in Murshidabad, for possessing assets disproportionate to income. He was charged again by the agency in 2018, the report concluded.