PHOTO : Bangladesh RAB force captured ATTF rebel base. TIWN File Photo
Satcherri is often in news in Bangladesh these days because of the recovery of weapons from its mountains. RAB officials brief mediapersons about these seizures -- but they never tell any journalist in Bangladesh about what Satcherri is all about. For a long time in 1990s and until the Hasina government drove northeastern rebels out of Bangladesh, Satcherri was the headquarters of the now defunct All Tripura Tiger Force headed by Ranjit Debbarma, who is now in Bishalgarh jail.
Look at the irony of this man. In 1998, his guerrillas kidnapped my brother in law doctor Partha Majumder and asked for Rs 25 lakhs.The huge pressure I piled on to him in both Tripura and Banglqadesh forced him to release my brother in law without a penny paid. His boys ended up paying Majumder a few thousand rupees to take a jeep from Simna to Agartala on the day he was walked up to the border from Satcherri.
Willy's appeal failed because the NIA had done its homework and the evidence it produced in the Thai court was seen by the judges as 'conclusive' of his complkicity.
Willy was brought to Delhi last week to stand trial for negotiating the deal between the NSCN and Chinese ordnance companies for supply of weapons worth between $ 1.2 million.
Though the NSCN has not fought against Indian forces since 1997, its fighters have been involved in factional feuds and turf battles with other breakaway Naga rebel factions and separatist groups representing other communities who oppose the NSCN’s plans for a ‘greater Naga state’. Some suspect arms trading in the murky conflict zones of Northeast.
Anthony Shimray, who has lived in Thailand for most of the last twenty years, was said to be the NSCN’s chief of procurement.
His name surfaced in the 2004 Chittagong arms cases , when prosecutors there found some evidence of his involvement with ULFA military wing chief Paresh Barua in trying to smuggle in a huge consignment of China-made weapons through the port city in Bangladesh .
Barua and Shimray were said to have stayed in the same hotel on the day the Chittagong police seized the ten-truck consignment in the port city.
But the trail on him went cold and could not be seriously pursued by the Bangladesh prosecutors.
Following Shimray's interrogation in India , Willy’s involvement in the deal with the Norinco subsidiary surfaced. Norinco is China's leading state-owned ordnance firm.
India and Thailand signed in May 2013 a treaty for extradition of fugitives wanted for terrorism, trans-national crimes and economic offences. That was one of the successes of Manmohan Singh's quiet diplomay in the neighborhood , though the soft-spoken economist did not brag about it .
After that, India got a red corner notice issued against Willy through the Interpol and the Thai 'trader' was arrested in September 2013 from his home in Bangkok.
The NIA says Shimray paid an advance of $ 800,000 in April 2010 to a Bangkok-based company run by Willy to source rocket launchers, grenades, assault rifles and ammunition for the NSCN and its allies from a weapons supplier in mainland China.
It says Shimray had been frequently travelling to Beijing to seal the arms deal.
A senior NIA official said the agency has got hold of emails exchanged between NSCN (I-M) leaders and Willy about the proposed deal to bring in the huge consignment in 2010 that include more than 1000 AK series rifles , machine guns and rocket launchers .
The NIA says it also has evidence of $700,000 paid to a Chinese firm by Willy for the deal.
The middleman who introduced Shimray and other leaders of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland to Willy is now a witness in the case after turning approver.
According to NIA chargesheet, Willy put the NSCN leaders in touch with one Yuthna, a representative of Chinese firm TCL.
TCL was a go-between for Chinese defence giant Noricno, the NIA suspects.
For the deal, Shimray had paid $100,000 to Willy in May, 2009. Later more funds were sent to TCL through Willy.
The NIA has electronic receipt of the payment. Shimray also received $800,000 in Bangkok from NSCN , out of which $ 700,000 was paid to TCL via Willy.
Rest of the sum was paid to Thai shipping agent Kittichai of Intermarine Shipping Company of Bangkok for transporting the weapons to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh..
NIA officials say that a definite money trail exists as payment to Chinese firm was made through normal banking channels via a leading private bank's branch in an African country.
NSCN has parked its funds in bank accounts across several African nations, they say.
The several separatist rebel groups in India's troubled Northeast have sourced their weapons from the black markets of South-East Asia in the aftermath of the Vietnam War until they turned to the Chinese in the last decade.
But the Chinese arms have been brought by sea and off-loaded in the Bangladesh coast before the separatist rebels from India's northeast would carry them on their shoulders into the region through the hilly terrain, evading Indian forces.
In April-May 1995, the Indian army launched a successfdul operation against such a large rebel column after they had picked up a huge consignment of weapons at Bangladesh's Wyakaung beach south off Cox's Bazar.
The operation christened "Golden Bird" led to the arrest of 118 rebels by the Indian army, even as 38 of them were killed in a series of encounters in the northeast Indian state of Mizoram.