Though measures were taken to improve coastal security after the fatal 26/11 incident, the city still hasn’t gotten much respite from issues like oil smuggling. Oil smuggling was the main source illegal income for many yesteryears Mumbai based gangsters. The police have seized nearly 20,000 liters of diesel, worth nearly Rs.14 lakhs, from two vessels in two different cases. Six people involved in the smuggling have been arrested.
What came across as a shocking revelation was that the barge had a license to go out into the sea to transport oil; only that MT Farzana had permission to retrieve sludge oil, which is residual oil, from the rig.
When the Yellow Gate police raided the barge anchored at Mazgaon docks, they found 29,000 liters of sludge oil worth Rs. 1.5 crores and 11,000 liters of diesel worth around Rs.7.7 lakh. The police first arrested three people and were on the look-out for three more: Akbar Pinjara, the owner of the barge, and his two associates.
According to a police officer, MT Farzana was hired by Meher Petro chemcials, which had the contract to remove sludge oil from the rig. While returning with sludge, the barge operators bought diesel from foreign ships at throwaway prices. These diesel tanks were concealed between sludge tanks.
”We are exploring all possible angles,’’ said assistant commissioner of police(Port Zone) Lata Dondhe who is heading the probe.
“We had given the contract to ferry the sludge oil. Our company has nothing to do with the diesel mafia,” Azaz Ansari, a representative of Meher Petrochemicals, said. Akil Shaikh, advocate for the accused, said, “It’s a case of diesel theft, and police are giving a different colour.”
On Sunday, the Colaba police were finally able to arrest three fishermen who were involved in the oil smuggling. The police seized 8,300 liters of diesel worth Rs. 5.8 lakh from their trawler. The accused had 22 hidden tanks fitted below false cavities.