The Theni police busted a racket in vehicle registration certificates on Saturday with the arrest of a key person, said to be behind the theft of original blank registration certificates (RC) from various Regional Transport Offices across the State and their use on stolen vehicles.
Following a complaint from Uthamapalayam RTO personnel in Theni district, a case was registered in April this year. Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan formed special teams to nab the culprits.
According to the complaint, an applicant approached the Uthamapalayam RTO for name transfer of a two-wheeler. The application contained the engine and chassis numbers. However, the staff found that the particulars furnished did not tally with the records.
Interrogation suggested that the vehicle might have been be stolen or the details provided, wrong. They inquired with the applicant and traced a few others involved in its sale.
This led to the arrest of Samudrapandi of P.C. Patti in Theni district and his accomplice Senthil Kumar in July. Based on their confession, the team seized 44 two-wheelers and an SUV. After a short period, the team succeeded in arresting three more persons, Sundararajan of Theni, Raja of Palani and Sekar of Chennai in September from whom four cars were seized.
On Saturday, the police secured M. Mariappan of Surandai, Tirunelveli district, who is said to be the kingpin.
Mr. Balakrishnan told The Hindu over phone that the special teams had seized 706 blank RC papers, many permit sheets, Form 24, tax cards and seals of various RTOs bearing names of the Assistant Registering Authority. A case of cheating and forgery, among others, has been registered.
According to the SP, Mariappan was allegedly in possession of various RC papers belonging to different RTOs from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu.
The modus operandi of the gang was to steal a vehicle (two-wheeler or four-wheeler) and subsequently prepare a registration certificate and affix the official seal. The documents appeared to be genuine and had many similarities with original RCs issued by the RTOs, an investigation officer said.
Later, the gang disposed of the stolen vehicle through brokers. Many luxury cars stolen in Maharashtra were sold in Tiruchi, Salem and Thiruvananthapuram. Similarly, vehicles stolen from Puducherry, Coimbatore and other towns were sold in Karnataka and other States.
The network could be very large as the accused had contacts in different cities, Mr. Balakrishnan said.
Police also found that many RTO employees in Tamil Nadu and other States were involved in stealing blank forms, seals and photographs of applicants for a price. The police are in the process of initiating action against the erring employees, the SP said and hoped to secure a few more accused shortly.
The special team was commended for unravelling the racket.