The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached three chimpanzees and four marmosets as part of a money laundering probe against a wildlife smuggler of West Bengal.
The central agency, which probes serious money laundering crimes, said the first-of-its-kind attachment under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) “enabled” zoo authorities in Kolkata to retain the animals as the smuggler was making attempts to take them away.
An attachment by the ED renders an asset out of bounds for its owner and it can be further confiscated by the agency after the Adjudicating Authority of the PMLA, a quasi-judicial body, approves the attachment within 180 days.
It said the seven animals are valued at Rs 81 lakh, with each chimpanzee worth Rs 25 lakh and a marmoset, a species of small long-tailed South American monkeys, about Rs 1.5 lakh.
The case pertains to West Bengal government’s complaint against alleged smuggler Supradip Guha for “illegal possession” of wild animals.
The ED said the state police had booked Guha for “forgery and using forged documents as genuine as he was found using a forged permission letter to illegally transport the wildlife birds purportedly issued by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, WildLife and Chief Wildlife Warden, West Bengal.”
It took over the case under PMLA based on this police FIR.
The ED said its probe found Guha was “running an organised wildlife smuggling racket”.
The agency said Guha recorded contradictory statements before the customs authorities and wildlife authorities to evade action from both the departments.
Guha, it is alleged, also obtained fake certificates regarding birth of the three chimpanzees in India, ED said.
The animals are now kept at the Alipore Zoological garden and are a major source of attraction for the visitors and also a source of revenue for the zoo.