Friday, April 02, 2010

4 held with leopard skin in Sabarkantha

4 held with leopard skin in Sabarkantha
Times of India

In the first ever sting operation carried out by the forest department, an old leopard skin, probably stolen from the royal Palace of Vijaynagar, was recovered late on Wednesday night. In a joint operation of Intelligence Bureau officials and the forest department, four members of a gang which was into animal skin trade, were arrested.

The team, disguised as customers, met the accused to strike a deal. The accused first tried to sell the leopard skin as that of tiger and the deal began as high as Rs 15 lakh. However, when the forest officials realised that it was not tiger skin, the accused immediately brought down the price to Rs 2 lakh.

While the negotiation were on, the car in which they were travelling reached a spot where another team of IB and forest department officials was waiting for them.

Anil Johri, conservator of forest, said, "We seized the leopard skin while attempts were being made to sell it." He said that the skin appeared to be old. It could be the one reportedly stolen from the royal place of Harshvardhan Sinhji Rathore from the royal family of Vijaynagar. He said that a police complaint in this regard was also filed by the royal family.

Officials from the department said that among those arrested were Lakshman Patel, Prakash Patel, both residents of Vijaynagar, Sabarkantha, Shyamji Patel of Amreli and Deepak Parmar of Ahmedabad. The main accused, Babu Modiya of Gardi village, is on the run. Forest department and IB have launched a hunt for Babu with the police.

Officials said several more members of the gang could be apprehended once interrogation of the four is over. He said that there is also a possibility of recovering at least four more skins from the gang.

"A leopard has 18 nails while the skin we seized had no nails. It seems the gang had sold the nails each of which usually costs Rs 50,000," said assistant conservator of forest RM Desai.

Desai said, "We are also in touch with Rajasthan forest department and unless we catch Modiya it is difficult to say anything. Those arrested have told the forest officials that Modiya had given them the skin to be sold in the market and that is all they know."

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