Two more arrested, but mystery still unsolved

October 13, 2016 12:00 am | Updated November 03, 2016 09:09 pm IST - BELAGAVI:

The mystery revolving around the seizure of a huge quantity of antlers, pangolin scales and tusks of a young elephant (without skulls), remains to be resolved, even as the accused has produced a certificate of ownership pleading ‘not guilty’. The police arrested two more persons, identified as Mazhar Khan Sodagar (36) and Amjad Khan Soudagar (30), on Wednesday.

Sleuths of the City Crime Investigation Bureau and Forest Department raided a house at Shettigalli, under Market Police station limits, and seized antlers weighing around one tonne, scales of pangolin and a pair of tusks on Tuesday.

The seized material isworth crores in the illegal international trade. Trade of wildlife products is banned in India as per the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. On Wednesday, the forest personnel took up physical counting of the material. According to sources, there are nearly 1,900 antlers as mentioned in the ownership certificate issued by the Forest Department, Belagavi in 1998 to Sher Khan Mohammed Khan Soudagar, father of the accused Salim Soudagar alias Chamadewala (40), a traditional leather trader in the city. However, Police Commissioner T.G. Krishna Bhat said there were several other issues involved, which are currently being investigated. Since the matter was related to wildlife and forests, the case would be further investigated by the Forest police officials. Also, the seized articles would be handed over to the Forest Department after completing formalities with the court.

Later, forest officials told The Hindu that the questions of how the accused managed to accumulate such a huge quantity was being investigated, even as they have produced a copy of ownership certificate issued by the department in 1998. Officials said not all the antlers were the pieces naturally shed by antelopes, hence the suspicion of poaching, besides trespassing the protected wildlife areas.

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