The rice was meant for poor people but a gang from Karnataka made money by exporting it illegally to African countries. The special investigative team (SIT) from Navi Mumbai busted a PDS rice export racket and seized around 110 metric tonne (MT) of public distribution system (PDS) rice from a godown in Palaspe, Panvel on July 31. The SIT sleuths also arrested three more persons from Karnataka. The culprits had already exported around 32,000 MT of PDS rice since January.
On July 31, the Panvel city police and revenue department raided a godown in Palaspe, Panvel and seized 33-MT rice which was to be distributed among the poor during the lockdown. The police had then arrested three persons identified as Bhimashankar Khade, Iqbal Kazi, and godown owner Laxman Patel. While Khade and Kazi are residents of Solapur, Patel is the owner of the godown.
After that, the Navi Mumbai police formed SIT that carried out the raid at three companies in Karnataka and Maharashtra and arrested three more persons. They also seized 270 MT of PDS grains. During the investigation, it also revealed that since January, the racket had already exported 32827 MT of PDS rice worth Rs 100 crore to African countries.
The three arrested persons were identified as Krushan Pawar, 45, Navnath Rathod, 25, and Sattar Sayyad, 25. A senior police official said that during the investigation, it revealed that 18 people are involved in the illegal export racket, and after three arrests, we are searching the remaining 15 accused.
According to police, the 270 MT PDS rice was seized from Jai Anand Food Company in Bhiwandi and Zenith Impex Company in Khalapur. “We seized 5404 bags of rice and 860 bags of wheat. The gunny bags were stamped as Government of Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh,” said the official.
The police official said that during the lockdown, the biometric system was stopped as part of precaution of which they took benefits and diverted the PDS grains to African countries illegally. A case was registered against them under the Essential Commodities Act.