Singer’s son among 3 held for cash exchange
TURA: South Garo Hills police have arrested the son of a prominent local musician from Tura along with a lady friend and a courier for channelling extortion money of the GNLA amounting to several lakh rupees and frozen two bank accounts which had a total of Rs 28 lakh on Thursday.
Surprisingly, the deposits of several lakh rupees into the two accounts failed to get noticed by the banking authorities despite the central government and the Reserve Bank of India having already issued guidelines in this regard.
The mastermind involved in channelling the money of the banned outfit was identified by police as Solly Sangma (33), son of Garo musician Lucas Marak. He was picked up from Tura for questioning on Thursday and taken to Baghmara where he was officially placed under arrest the same evening.
South Garo Hills police first got a whiff of the money laundering operation of the GNLA during a recent counter-insurgency operation in the district.
“We came across information which indicated that a lady from Chokpot was handling large sums of money sent by the GNLA and we started an investigation immediately,” said district police chief Anand Mishra.
The investigation led police to 26-year-old Probilla Marak, a rice shop dealer from Chokpot bazaar.
When police arrived at her place on Wednesday to take her for questioning she obliged and later revealed the modus operandi of the outfit’s money laundering operation.
She was reportedly contacted frequently by Solly Sangma who managed to influence her to keep in touch with the banned group’s senior commander Baichung Ch Momin and use her bank account to channelize the illegal money.
Baichung is currently overseeing the finance wing of the banned GNLA following the surrender of its finance secretary Rikchie who was subsequent killed by the outfit in Williamnagar, this year.
She had opened an account in Tura with the main branch of SBI in 2014 for a college scholarship.
A courier of the GNLA identified as Sengchang Ch Momin (22) soon began to handover large sums of money extorted by the GNLA to Probilla Marak.
According to police, money to the tune of thirty lakh rupees was transacted from Probilla Marak’s account in a span of two years.
Despite the huge transactions undertaken through her account she was only paid a sum of two to three thousand rupees each time.
The largest transaction of money from her account to Solly Sangma’s account took place on November 12 when she deposited 25 lakh rupees.
Solly was allegedly using the GNLA money for expansion of his business.
On Thursday the accounts of both Solly and Probilla were frozen by the banking authorities on the orders of the police. It was found that he had already withdrawn several lakhs from the account and only Rs 14 lakh was left.
The account of Probilla which was also frozen had in it a sum of three lakh rupees.
In the meantime, the GNLA cash courier Sengchang Momin was also arrested from Chokpot on Thursday.
It is worth mentioning that Solly Sangma was arrested from Salbari locality of Siliguri town in West Bengal on September 2014 from where he was operating the GNLA social website handle.
This is not the first time Garo Hills police have uncovered large sums of money belonging to insurgent groups operating in the region.
On November 17, East Garo Hills police traced and seized Rs 35 lakh of GNLA money from two individuals, Batsrang and Saljepa of Williamnagar.
Following the demonetization of the old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency last month, the central government had issued a general alert that outlawed militant groups might park their ill-gotten money in bank accounts of civilians.
Police had alerted all the banks in the State to be watchful of any suspicious deposits and to inform the police in all such cases.
Police have also alerted the public not to allow their bank accounts to park terror funds belonging to militant groups and to pass on information to the police in case they are forced or compelled by any militant group or anti-social elements.