“Eagle” Rajan earned his nickname from his long past of procuring wild-bird figurines, among other ivory artefacts, for rich collectors in the country and abroad.
Wildlife enforcers, who arrested the suspected 50-year-old ivory dealer here on Sunday, said the moniker was also a tribute to his predatory business acumen that helped him secretly dominate the illegal ivory trade centred on the capital for years.
Investigators said that J. Rajan was barely in his teens when he entered the ivory business in 1978. He went underground in 1992 when the trade was internationally banned.
The ban forced him to alter his method of operation. Enforcers said the suspect, from then on, rarely ever procured tusks directly from elephant poachers or their middlemen.
He only bought finished products from artisans who moonlighted for ivory traders. Enforcers said this helped Rajan to slip under the Forest Department’s radar for long.
However, his successful run ended with wildlife enforcers dismantling the elephant poaching network that operated under the leadership of Aiyakkara Vasu alias Varattupara Veerappan this year.
The trail of elephant killings in Malayatoor forest division led enforcers to Rajan’s doorstep in July.
Hunt for Rajan
The hunt for Rajan started with the seizure of his personal journal, which contained clues to the identities of his rich clients. Enforcers also trawled his e-mail history and stumbled upon incriminating evidence that pointed to ivory deals involving “big corporate names”.
Enforcers said Rajan operated at least six bank accounts which showed transactions amounting to crores of rupees. Some of the accounts were operated by his wife, who has been arrested.
Investigators said he fled to Sharjah through Chennai airport on September 6, 2015. This has prompted investigators to open a separate inquiry, with the help of Central agencies, to find out whether there has been any wire transfer of money to Rajan’s accounts from abroad.
Investigators said Umesh Agarwal, Rajan’s business North Indian business partner, who has also been arrested, owned a four-storey building in Vikas Nagar in New Delhi. They said its cellar was often used to fashion artefacts from tusks of elephants poached for their ivory in the country.