By Quaid Najmi
Satara (Maharashtra), Feb 17 (IANS) In a startling development, the Maharashtra Police swooped down on a private bungalow in Wai town in Satara district and arrested two German nationals found cultivating cannabis at a bungalow.
The bungalow, owned by a local citizen, is situated in the quiet Yashwant Nagar area of Wai town, a picturesque holiday-cum-film shooting destination, with the twin hill stations of Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani towering over it.
Satara Superintendent of Police Ajaykumar Bansal said that following a tip-off about two foreigners living and moving around in a suspicious manner at the bungalow in Nandanvan Park, a police party “paid them a visit” on Tuesday.
When they attempted to question the duo, they gave furtive and contradictory replies after which the Wai police team decided to search the premises.
“The police party was shocked to see large quantities of cannabis (Ganja) being grown surreptitiously inside in around half-a-dozen rooms, on the roof and outside. It was like a ‘farmhouse’ for the illegal contraband,” Bansal told IANS.
The police team informed Bansal and Deputy Superintendent of Police Dheeraj Patil who ordered their arrest and launched a full-scale investigation.
The duo has been identified as Sergis Victor Manca, 31 and Sebastian Stein Muller, 25, who were produced before a local court and remanded to police custody till Februray 20.
A thorough search of the bungalow led to a consignment of around 29 kgs of home-grown, ready-to-sell ‘Ganja’ worth around Rs 3 lakh packed in bags, which has been seized.
The police also recovered sophisticated artificial lighting equipment, LED lights, laptops, mobiles, etc from the bungalow, and at one point, one of them attempted to flee the police clutches, but was caught.
“We were surprised to see ‘Ganja’ was being cultivated in the entire premises using modern methods with which we are also not familiar. We have called experts from Pune to assist us. The duo lived and grew the cannabis there, barely stepping out or interacting with outsiders,” Bansal added.
Investigations revealed that both Manca and Muller are history-sheeters who were arrested in a drugs case by the Narcotics Control Bureau in Pernem, Goa, in 2017.
Later, the Bombay High Court (Goa bench) enlarged them on bail with the condition that they could live in Satara only, the officer said.
Though the duo was living in the Nandanvan Park bungalow since over 18 months, it is not clear where they spent the intervening period after arriving from Goa, which is now being probed, according to Bansal.
“As per the high court orders, their passports are deposited with the Goa Police, and they cannot leave the country till the NCB case against them is pending. We have requested Goa Police to provide us with their passport-visa details to help our probe,” Bansal said.
Police teams are also scanning the local bungalow owner to verify if he is involved in the racket, the accomplices, peddlers, customers, etc of Manca and Muller who were quietly conducting the illegal drug manufacturing in a residential area of the town.
To a query, Bansal ruled out the possibility of the sleepy town of Wai – with a population of around 32,000 – allegedly emerging as a sub-centre for illicit drugs business, given its proximity to Mumbai, Pune and other important cities.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])