One of the 10 iridium container boxes that went missing from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) premises in Mumbai, 10 years ago, was traced to Tamil Nadu recently.
The Tamil Nadu state police have detained five men who were trying to sell the iridium container boxes in the open market in Tuticorin.
Iridium is a very hard, brittle, silvery-white transition metal which is the most corrosion-resistant metal and can be flammable. It is one of the rarest elements in Earth’s crust, with annual production and consumption in only a few tonnes. It is mainly used in electronics-related applications, spark plugs, electrodes and chemical catalysts.
On Sunday, Puthiamputhur police got a tip-off that a group of men has been camping at a lodge in Tuticorin to sell a few iridium tubes. A special team raided the lodge on Sunday afternoon and during searches found six iridium tubes in the possession of five people.
The detainees were identified as Vaithiyalingam and his friend Muthuramalingam from Thanjavur, Thangam, Mariyahas and Murugan from Tuticorin district.
During inquiry, police came to know that the iridium tubes were the ones that went missing from the DRDO office in Mumbai in 2010.
In 2010, a Japan-based firm had placed an order for iridium container boxes at DRDO. Of the total order, 10 iridium container boxes went missing. The Mumbai police started investigations but could not trace the containers in all these years. Of these 10 containers, three were found in Pattukottai in Thanjavur district.
“Three containers had reached Swaminathan in Pattukottai in Thanjavur district. Of the three containers, one was given to Vaithiyalingam in the same district for sale,” said a police officer who was a part of the investigating team.
Vaithiyalingam along with his friend Muthuramalingam had sought the help of Thangam, Mariyathas and Murugan in Tuticorin to sell the iridium tubes.
A police team headed to Thanjavur to arrest Saminathan, who was believed to be the prime accused. It was also found that of the remaining two containers, one was given to a person in Trichy and one to another person in Neyveli.
Since the Mumbai police have already registered a missing case, Tuticorin police were unsure whether they could register a new case. “We have altered the Mumbai police and they would be sent the details after Swaminathan is arrested,” said a senior police officer with Tuticorin police.
“Since few types of iridium could be used to make heavy explosives, we are inquiring on how the man in Pattukottai got the containers,” the officer said.
While one of the detainees told the police that Swaminathan received the parcel, police are not buying the theory. “We could not believe that a parcel prepared for Japan might have been mistakenly been sent to Pattukottai in Thanjavur. We also wonder why it was brought for sale 10 years after it went missing,” the officer added.