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Russian gang of 4 arrested for cultivating drugs, ATM thefts




Goa Police have arrested a four-member Russian gang of international criminals for growing cannabis in a rented apartments in Mandrem and stealing automated teller machines (ATMs) by using gas cutters and explosives.

With the arrest of the gang, police managed to detect the ATM theft case of Rs 9 lakh which took place in Arambol in November last year; the accused had used an explosive substance to break open the machine.

The four Russians were identified as Ilia Alexandrovich Shtennikov (30),
Radik Vafin (35), Evgenii Zakharin (38) and Igor Markov (32). Police said that they arrived in Goa on a tourist visa in December 2018.

Police revealed that they had been on the lookout for Shtennikov since the last two months following confirmed information that he was growing marijuana in his rented apartment. Based on reliable information, a Pernem police team led by police inspector Sandesh Chodankar Friday night raided the rented apartment at Dandoswada in Mandrem and arrested Shtennikov for illegally cultivating cannabis plants and seized 608 grams of cannabis amounting to Rs 65,000 from him. The entire operation was conducted by Chodankar with his team of 18 police personnel in the presence of Sub Divisional Police Officer Serafin Dias.

During the course of interrogation, Shtennikov revealed the names of his three accomplices. Subsequently, police searched their house location and arrested the three Russian nationals and seized from them 39 grams of ecstasy tablets, 4.69 grams of MDMA, 1.24 grams of cocaine and 3.4 kg of ganja all worth Rs 7 lakh. The police have also seized a car with registration number GA03W5666 and a two-wheeler without number plate from the Russians.

On searching the Swift Dzire car, the police surprisingly found ATM breaking machines. One of the accused Radik Vafin confessed to having committed a number of ATM thefts including Bank of India ATM machine in Arambol in November 2018 along with the other accused by using a gas cutter and an explosive substance. He also admitted that they had attempted to break open ATMs across the state by wearing face masks.

Police have recovered several tools, explosives and gadgets used in the ATM thefts including a cooking gas cylinder and gas cutter, iron cutter, drill machine, spanners, two-wheeler battery, spray paints to disable CCTVs, wires, navigation compass, face masks, caps, hand gloves and other items.

Police said that the arrest of the gang is a “significant milestone” in their ongoing battle to break the international criminal gang. “I’m surprised it happened because it’s so difficult; they’re so insulated. It’s just a sign of how much better police are getting at attacking these gangsters,” SP North Chandan Choudhary said.

“We are still in the process of interrogating them and we might detect more ATM theft cases registered in Mapusa and Pernem police stations. We will also ask FRRO to get their criminal antecedents from their country of origin,” the SP said.

The police said that these foreigners were staying in rented premises without informing the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO). “We have informed the FRRO about the arrest and also of the violation of rules by land owner by allowing the foreigners to stay without informing the police and without filling up the ‘C’ form,” the SP said.


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