Kingpin of gang selling leopard skins arrested

The crime branch has arrested kingpin of a gang that tried to sell a leopard skin Monday. Four other members of the gang — two sons and two acquaintances of forest officers living in staff quarters inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali — were caught in the act.

The kingpin, Pankaj Patel, brother of one of the accused arrested earlier, was picked up on Thursday.

"We seized five leopard molars and an equal number of incisors and canines from Pankaj, son of a forest officer," said joint commissioner of police (crime) Himanshu Roy.

"Pankaj shot the leopard. There were two bullet holes in the skin," he said. Police claimed the five accused had admitted to selling four leopard skins in the past for Rs 4 lakh each.

On Monday, the crime branch had arrested Raju Khaire (27), Prashant Patel (26), Tushar Bagwe (20) and Abhishek Rane (23) from Borivali (East) and seized a leopard skin they were allegedly trying to sell.

It said Patel and Bagwe were sons of forest offers and Khaire and Rane their acquaintances. All the accused have been booked under sections 39 and 51 of Wildlife Protection Act.

In a separate case, a 48-year-old man was arrested in Kurla (West) Tuesday, also trying to sell a leopard skin worth Rs 1.5 lakh. He has allegedly confessed to having acquired it from a relative in Pune. Forest department suspects the leopard was from Sahyadri Hills.

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