The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing the alleged involvement of several Border Security Force (BSF) and Customs officials in the ongoing probe into cattle smuggling along the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal, officials familiar with the probe said.
The case was registered in 2018 after a BSF commandant, who served in Bengal, was booked in Kerala. The probe has revealed a nexus between government officers and cattle traders. It is alleged that 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 price and legally sell them again.
The CBI is probing allegations that for every cow seized and sold through this nexus, BSF officials used to get Rs 2,000 and Customs 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 bribe.
CBI officers suspect that a large quantity of money was sent to other states through hawala operators.
On Wednesday, CBI conducted raids in 15 cities and towns in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh and a BSF officer's residence at Salt Lake in the eastern fringe of Kolkata was sealed.
Satish Kumar, the officer named in the FIR, used to be a commandant in the South Bengal Frontier of the BSF and is now posted in a neighbouring state. His home in Gaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, was also raided, a senior BSF official of the South Bengal Frontier said on condition of anonymity.
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 from May 2016 to May 2017. However, neither was any smuggler arrested nor the vehicles used for ferrying the cattle seized, the FIR says.
The CBI is probing the alleged involvement of several BSF and Customs officials in the illegal trade involving crores of rupees. The agency is also probing if the cattle smugglers operating in West Bengal have links with terror groups in Bangladesh, especially the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
According to the FIR, there was a nexus between some BSF and Customs officers and three cow traders; Muhammad Enamul Sheikh, Anarul Sheikh and Muhammad Gulam Mustafa.
"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," says the FIR.
"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 were reduced which were then procured at a considerably lower price by the traders due to their unholy nexus also with officials of the Customs department," the CBI FIR reads.
CBI officials said raids were conducted at several places in and around Kolkata and also in Murshidabad and North 24 Parganas district on Wednesday and Thursday.
In 2017, the CBI had booked J D 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.