Pune Customs bust major hawala racket

Sushant Ranjan
Sunday, 13 August 2017

Pune: The case of ‘too much upma’ seized at Pune airport by the Pune Customs Department has led to the revelation of a hawala racket leading to raids at Ulhasnagar. The Customs officials have detained Pradeep Ahuja and Bittu Harchandani for a link with the two persons’ arrest at Pune airport.

Pune: The case of ‘too much upma’ seized at Pune airport by the Pune Customs Department has led to the revelation of a hawala racket leading to raids at Ulhasnagar. The Customs officials have detained Pradeep Ahuja and Bittu Harchandani for a link with the two persons’ arrest at Pune airport.

Poha, not upma!
Comically, the interrogation revealed that the eatable in the casserole was actually poha and not upma! The poha was made in a snacks centre near Pune airport. The officials also suspect that employees of snack centre may be involved in the racket. Last week, Customs officials had arrested two passengers including a woman, who was to fly to Dubai from Pune airport, for allegedly trying to smuggle out foreign currency (US dollars 1,72,800 and Euros 30,000, worth Rs 1.29 crore) by concealing them in casseroles containing hot poha.  

The passengers were identified as Nishan Vijay Yetam of Raigad and Harsha Ranglani of Chembur, Mumbai.

Confession
According to the official of the Customs, “During interrogation, Nishant and Harsha confessed that they were working for Pradeep Ahuja alias Lara, a resident of Ulhasnagar and Bittu Harchandani. Pune Customs officers raided Ahuja’s house in Ulhasnagar and Harsha’s house in Chembur.”

During interrogation, Nishant said that he was told that a person will meet him in Dubai and the packet has to be delivered to him.

Accordingly, he received the packet near Pune airport and packed in casseroles containing poha. He was carrying US dollars and Harsha was carrying Euros.

Raids in Ulhasnagar
On Thursday, the Customs officials raided Ahuja’s residence at Ulhasnagar. The officials also seized some documents, mobile phones and a pen drive from his house. During the interrogation, Ahuja confessed that he was involved in hawala racket from past few years. Following the arrest of Ahuja, another suspect Bittu Harchandani’s name popped up in the probe.

Customs officials suspect the involvement of a kingpin who is running the show. Although, the arrested accused have not revealed the name of any other person, Customs officials think that the link has some Dubai connection.

The hawala racket
- Officials said that to run hawala racket, Pradeep Ahuja hired unknown persons like Nishant and Harsha for smuggling gold and foreign currencies.
- Chief Judicial Magistrate of Pune court Satyasheela T Katare has sent Nishant and Harsha to 14-day judicial custody.
- Anjali Desai, counsel for the Customs department, argued for an extension of the custody of accused persons.

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