man acquitted on 565kg hash smuggling charges

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    Starlet Tulip Joshi's father gets court clearance

    Mumbai: Actress Tulip Joshi's father Kishore Joshi and three others were acquitted on Wednesday by a special narcotics court in a 2003 case of shipping a consignment of hashish in pickle bottles to the US and Europe. Special Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances judge AM Kshatriya acquitted the four for lack of evidence.

    Joshi, Niranjan Shah and Irfan Gazali had allegedly sent a 565-kg hashish consignment in pickle bottles branded as Mahesh Food Products to the US in October 2002. The bottles were to be received by accused Jitendra Panchal in the US in October 2002. The consignment was seized by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on October 17, 2002.

    The Drug Enforcement Agency arrested Panchal in Vienna, Austria, and brought him to the US. Panchal pleaded guilty on charges of trying to distribute the drugs.

    The DEA then contacted the Narcotics Control Bureau, which arrested Joshi, Shah and Gazali in April 2003. They also arrested Panchal after he served his sentence of over four years in the US and returned to Mumbai.

    "There was no proof that the consignment was shipped out of India by the accused," said defence advocate Taraq Sayed, who appeared for Panchal and Shah. The prosecution had argued that Joshi introduced Shah to Panchal as a financier of films. Joshi had also allegedly confessed to the NCB that he met Panchal in a US jail where they were both serving time.

    Defence lawyer Ayaz Khan, who appeared for Joshi, said, "The prosecution was relying heavily on the confessional statement of Panchal in the US. We argued that Panchal's confession is not legally admissible here. The prosecution also relied on the confessional statements of the accused persons, but had no further evidence to corroborate it."

    Bratatee Barman / DNA

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