By Vijay Pinjarkar
NAGPUR: As Bhandara forest officials are try to hide facts about it, TOI has learnt that the tiger skin and body parts seizure case has turned murkier. It appears local poachers are having global links. Bhandara DFO Vinay Thakre did not respond to calls made to him. However, official sources admitted that call detail record (CDR) of kingpin Vikas Maraskolhe of Davezari in Tumsar prove links with a Tibetan tiger skin trader. Besides, CDR also found cell number of dreaded Baheliya poacher Keru Chhiyalal Rajgond, who is absconding.
The forest officials, who were initially sloppy when the case was exposed on July 27, are on the toes after the CDR report and now trying to ensure prime poachers and traders do not get bail. Nine accused were already remanded to magisterial custody (MCR) by JMFC, Bhandara, due to poor prosecution case. "On Monday we appointed Kartik Shukul, who is fighting poaching cases here, as special counsel to plead our case in Bhandara," said the senior forest officials.
The forest department on Monday opposed bail to three main accused Vikas Maraskolhe, retired revenue department surveyor Kavish Bomanwar (Deori), and Manoj Mahajan (Nagpur). Mahajan is said to be practising witchcraft and used to finance the tiger body parts trade.
Shukul argued that the investigation was at a nascent stage and considering the heinous nature of the offence, bail ought to be rejected. He further contended that given the positions of the accused in this illegal syndicate, there was every likelihood of the accused tampering with witnesses and evidence. The gang's national links had already been bared and now their international links needed to be exposed.
The officials have already seized tiger skin from Maraskolhe. Later, five tiger nails and chinkara and deer trophies were also seized during a raid at his house in Davezari. Chinkara is Schedule I animal under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. The nails are said to be of different tiger brought from Khawasa interstate border.
It is not clear whether Maraskolhe knew Keru but the Tibetan tiger skin trader seems to be knowing both, Maraskolhe and Keru.
Keru is wanted by the CBI in a 2009 poaching case and also by the state forest department for killing two tigers in Umred and Brahmapuri. He had escaped arrest from Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh last year. His brother Ajit, who was also involved, was arrested and is now lodged in Central Jail here.
Sources said Maraskolhe acted as a collection agent. The skin seized from him was of a tiger from Odisha. It was poached by one Hanumanthu. He was asked by Mahajan to give the skin to Bomanwar from where Tanne Khan of Dongargadh procured it and finally landed with Maraskolhe. He was also to procure a tiger bone from one Deochand Avtare.