Uranium worth Rs 26 crore seized in Maharashtra: The inside story

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Mumbai, Dec 24: The seizure of depleted uranium worth around Rs 26 crore at Thane, Maharashtra on December 22 was a major breakthrough. The details of the investigation being conducted by the Thane police suggest that the uranium may have been sourced from outside India and the accused persons were trying to sell it in the local market.

The Thane police had arrested Kishore Prajapati with 8.86 kilograms of depleted uranium. The uranium was valued at Rs 3 crore per kg. Prajapati a scrap dealer during investigations told the police that he had found the radioactive material in a scrapped Air India aircraft which he had purchased through his contacts.

Rs 26 crore worth uranium seized in Maha

He also said that ship breaking was an ancestral profession and he would acquire ships, take them apart and sell the parts. He also told the police that around 10 years back he had purchased a scrapped aircraft. While taking apart the aircraft, I found uranium in its wings, he also claimed before the police.

Was the uranium smuggled in from abroad?
The police are however buying the version given to them by Prajapati. We are verifying the claims and also studying the paper work, investigators say. Following the questioning of Prajapati, the police detained Saifullah Khan. The police say that Khan was responsible for finding a buyer. The seized uranium was sent for chemical analysis.

The report suggests that the uranium may have been sourced from outside. The trail leads to the Gulf, officers part of the probe say. The police suspect that the accused persons may have smuggled the uranium into India and proposed to sell it a very high price. Each kg costs Rs 3 crore and the accused were in the process of finding a buyer. Prajapati during his questioning said that he had the uranium tested at a lab in 2014. He further said that he wanted to sell it in the black market.

Depleted uranium in the black market:
A year ago, there was a report stating that criminal networks in Russia were trying to sell depleted uranium to extremists in the Middle East. The report also stated that there was a thriving market for such material. Depleted uranium is also referred to as Q-metal or D-38.
Recently the United States confirmed that it had fired depleted uranium ammunition in Syria. The US said that DU was fired on November 18 and 23 2015. The US states that DU is specifically used only for engaging armoured targets.

DU owing to it high density is also used in counterweights in aicrafts, radition shielding in medical radiation therapy. Its military uses include armour piercing projectiles and armour plating. In India to use DU one would have to obtain permission from the Atomic Energy Commission.

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