A masters degree holder chemist nicknamed ‘doctor’ and a college dropout “self-taught synthesis expert” nicknamed ‘scientist’ — who allegedly masterminded the synthesis of potent narcotic mephedrone using 10 commonly available chemicals — are at the centre of Pune police’s investigation into the mephedrone manufacturing syndicate run by kingpin Lalit Patil during his stay in Yerawada Central Prison and Sassoon Hospital.
The Pune City police are currently investigating widespread mephedrone manufacturing and smuggling racket led by drug cartel kingpin Lalit Anil Patil (34), the investigation into which began after the Anti Narcotics Cell of Pune City police seized mephedrone worth Rs 2.14 crore on September 30 from a spot near Sassoon General Hospital.
The Pune police have till now named as many 14 accused in the case. On Tuesday, a Special Court for the cases under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) remanded Patil and two others key accused in the case — Shivaji Shinde (40) and Rohitkumar Chowdhary (30) — to the custody of Pune police till November 13. The Pune police had invoked MCOCA in the case on November 1. In addition to Patil, Shinde and Chowdhary, eight other accused in the case are currently in jail and three more are in the custody of Mumbai police, whose remand will soon be sought by Pune police through a production warrant.
Investigation Officer of the case, Assistant Commissioner of Police Sunil Tambe submitted to the court on Tuesday that they were probing whether the syndicate had links to any other narcotics cartel operating in India or internationally. Public Prosecutor Vijay Fargade told the court that the investigation would also focus on how a mephedrone manufacturing unit was set up at Shindegaon village in Nashik after a key accused in the case, Arvindkumar Lohare, gave Lalit Patil the details of the method to synthesize mephedrone, when the two were lodged in Yerawada Central Prison in judicial custody after their arrest in 2020 by Pimpri Chinchwad police in a case of seizure of 20 kg of mephedrone.
“Lohare holds a Masters degree in Chemistry and has worked in chemical industry in the past. Nicknamed as ‘doctor’ by his associates, his role is being investigated by police in Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and Nashik in addition to central agencies for being the chemistry mastermind to various narcotics cartels in the past. When the conspiracy linked to the mephedrone manufacturing unit in Nashik was being hatched, Lohare was in prison with other accused in the case. However, he is known to have conducted training sessions and practicals in synthesizing mephedrone for other cartels in the past. As part of one such cartel, Lohare had set up a mephedrone manufacturing unit in Mahad in Raigad sometime around 2019 and later shifted it to Ranjangaon in Pune. Both these premises were raided by Pimpri Chinchwad police and close to 200 kg of was suspected to have been manufactured at these facilities before the raids were conducted in 2020,” said a senior police officer who is part of the investigation.
The officer added, “Chowdhary, whose aliases are Amit Kumar and Rahul Pandit, is a Class 11 pass college dropout. He is known among the syndicate members as the ‘scientist’ for being a self-taught expert in synthesis of mephedrone. He too has worked in the chemical industry in the past and knows his way around chemicals and synthesizing equipment having slogged in laboratories and manufacturing units in the past. Lohare’s chemistry acumen and Chowdhary’s lab skills were behind the manufacturing unit set up at Shindegaon village in Nashik as part of the racket.”
Earlier in October, Mumbai police had raided this factory in Nashik and over 150 kg of mephedrone worth Rs 300 crore and large quantities of raw materials used for the synthesis were seized during the raid. During the hearing for custodial remand of the trio, the prosecution listed the 10 chemicals used by the syndicate to synthesise mephedrone. The officials said that of these Acetone, Toluene, Hydrochloric Acid, Caustic soda and Soda ash are commonly available in chemical industry while Aluminium chloride, Bromine, Propionyl chloride, Monoethanolamine and Chloroform are available under regulation.
Another officer who is part of the probe said, “Shivaji Shinde is the raw materials supplier of the syndicate. Probe has revealed that he procured 10 chemicals which are commonly available in the chemical industry, though some of them are minimally regulated. Shinde is said to have been procuring these chemicals not from one place but from multiple places in Gujarat, Bhiwandi and some other areas of Mumbai.”
Patil, who was admitted to the prisoners’ ward at Sassoon General Hospital, escaped on the evening of October 2, a day prior to his scheduled surgery for hernia. He was arrested by Mumbai police on October 17 from a village near Bangalore. Police probe has revealed that since his arrest in the Pimpri Chinchwad case in December 2020, Lalit Patil who had been sent to Yerawada Prison, managed to spend 16 months in the Sassoon hospital ward by giving various medical reasons. “The mephedrone manufacturing syndicate was masterminded and run by Lalit Patil during his stay in Yerawada Central Prison and Sassoon Hospital ward, with the help of Lohare and other members.” said an officer.