Lalit Patil, an inmate of Yerwada jail undergoing treatment at Sassoon General Hospital, was the main accused in a ₹2 crore mephedrone drug bust case. On the evening of October 2, he managed to escape from the hospital facility. It was discovered that Patil continued running his drug cartel from the hospital ward, using a mobile phone. Subhash Mandal, who was apprehended by Pune Police's Anti Narcotics Cell outside Sassoon Hospital on September 30 with 2 kilograms of mephedrone, revealed that he had obtained the drugs from Patil through a hospital canteen staffer named Rauf Shaikh. Mandal, Shaikh, and Patil were subsequently charged under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act and Indian Penal Code provisions, in a case registered at Bundgarden Police Station. Patil, however, managed to escape with the assistance of a driver named Datta Doke, who has since been arrested.
In the wake of Patil's escape, nine police personnel have been suspended. Five officers were suspended for lapses in their vigilance, while four others were suspended because Patil was found using a mobile phone while in the hospital ward. The Maharashtra government has formed a four-member committee to investigate Patil's escape, led by Dr Dilip Mhaisekar, the director of the Directorate of Medical Education and Research. Other committee members include Solapur Government Medical College dean Dr Sudhir Deshmukh, Nanded Government Medical College professor Dr Hemant Godbole, and Mumbai's Grant Medical College professor Dr Eknath Pawar. This came after Shiv Sena (UBT) and the Congress demanded a probe against Dada Bhuse, the Minister for Ports, alleging his role in the escape of Patil. Bhuse has refuted the allegations.
Meanwhile, the Special Task Force of Uttar Pradesh Police, along with the Crime Branch team from Pune, arrested Lalit Patil's brother Bhushan Patil (a chemical engineering graduate) and one Abhishek Balakwade near the Nepal border in connection with the case. Pune Police informed the court that they possess CCTV footage illustrating how Bhushan and Balakwade supplied drugs to Mandal. The police also disclosed that Bhushan and Balakwade jointly operated the mephedrone manufacturing unit in Nashik, which was recently raided by the Mumbai police, resulting in the seizure of 150 kg of mephedrone and raw materials. It was revealed during the investigation that Lalit, along with Bhushan and Balakwade, illicitly produced mephedrone and distributed it at various locations. Bhushan and Balakwade were remanded in police custody until October 16, while Lalit remains at large.
How did the drug cartel come into existence?
Tushar Kale, who allegedly has links to the Chhota Rajan gang and was lodged in Kolhapur prison, came into contact with a Nigerian national named Zuby Odoka. After their release on bail, they managed to acquire the entire process of manufacturing mephedrone from a narcotics racketeer incarcerated in a Mumbai prison. Another key accused in the case, Rakesh Khaniwadekar, then allegedly joined the racket. He assisted Kale and others in procuring a farmhouse where they synthesised mephedrone for the first time. However, due to the unsatisfactory quality of the product, they decided to enlist the help of Arvindkumar Lohare, a postgraduate degree holder in organic chemistry who was already facing charges of drug manufacturing in a case registered in Nashik. Lohare is alleged to have conducted multiple training sessions for the cartel members, including some at a farmhouse in Karjat in 2019.
The cartel initially synthesised their drugs at two closed chemical factories in an industrial cluster in Mahad taluka in Raigad district, where an estimated 60 to 70 kilograms of mephedrone was manufactured. Later, the cartel moved their manufacturing base to a closed chemical factory in Ranjangaon. Here, a mephedrone manufacturing line was established, and an estimated 132 kilograms of the drug were synthesised. Of these, 112 kilograms were sold by the racket led by Kale and Khaniwadekar through Zuby. The remaining 20 kilograms from this batch were seized from five persons arrested by the Pimpri Chinchwad Police at Chakan on October 7, 2020.
Within three months, the police arrested 17 more individuals, including Kiran Kale, Ashok Sankpal, Kiran Rajguru, Kuldeep Indalkar, Zuber Mulla, Tushar Kale, Rakesh Mishra, Odoka, Kahnivadekar, Parshuram Jogal, Mandar Bhosale, Ram Manoharlal Gurwani, Lohare, Manoj Palande, Afzal Hussain Abbas Sansara, Sandesh Dusankar, and Lalit Patil. Reportedly, Patil had not only procured drugs from the racketeers in the past but also received ₹65 lakh from four of the suspects arrested in the case earlier to arrange lawyers for them and attempt to strike deals with officials. Police had seized ₹25 lakh in cash from Patil during his arrest on December 10, 2020.
Who is Lalit Patil?
Police records indicate that Lalit Patil is a commerce graduate who completed his schooling at a Kendriya Vidyalaya in Nashik. He is also known to have contested the local civic polls in the city. In 2012, Patil was previously booked in a case of dacoity at the Niphad police station. He was predominantly known for allegedly handling the finances between the individuals arrested in narcotics cases and their lawyers. However, the mephedrone bust has revealed his alleged direct involvement in the drug racket itself, showcasing that Patil plays a more significant role in the narcotics trade.
Where is Lalit Patil now?
Pune Police suspect that Lalit Patil might have crossed the border into Nepal. To aid in his capture, a special police team has been established, with ten crime branch units collaborating on the search.