|Pem Chaki Sherpa in Belakoba forest range office on Friday. Picture by Biplab Basak|
TT, Jalpaiguri, July 29: A Bhutanese woman with alleged links with an international animal part smuggling racket was arrested today and an ivory piece and her voter identity cards in both India and Bhutan were recovered.
Officers of Belakoba range under Baikunthapur forest division picked up Pem Chaki Sherpa, 42, from a bus bound for Siliguri.
Sherpa is a resident of Tsirang district in Bhutan. She, however, used to stay near Jaigaon, the town on the India-Bhutan border, in Alipurduar district.
“During interrogation, she has revealed that for the past five years, she has been into animal parts’ smuggling. The woman has smuggled several animal parts like rhino horn, ivory, leopard skin and deer musk from Bhutan to countries like Nepal, Indonesia and Thailand and Hong Kong via Jalpaiguri and Siliguri,” Sanjoy Dutta, the range officer of Belakoba, said.
As the foresters scanned her luggage, they found that she had voter cards of both India and Bhutan. “We have also seized some ATM cards, bank account documents she has in Bhutan and India, several visiting cards and contact numbers. We have approached the district election department of Jalpaiguri to verify whether her Indian voter card is original,” the range officer said.
According to forest sources, Sherpa has the contact numbers of officials of the Indian Tourism Development Corporation, immigration department and prominent hotels in Darjeeling and Gangtok.
“We have also found contacts of many animal part smugglers and the bank account number of a businessman in Delhi. It seems she would deposit the money earned from the sale of of animal parts in this account. Even phone numbers of prominent shopping malls and jewellery stores in Bhutan and Bangkok were with her. All these have made us suspect that she is a major player in animal parts’ smuggling and was operating from north Bengal. We think she had visited foreign countries and she is an important catch,” said a forest officer.
Foresters said they would speak to central intelligence agencies to get to the root of the racket.
Sherpa was produced in the chief judicial magistrate’s court in Jalpaiguri and remanded in 14 days’ jail custody. She was charged under relevant sections of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972