Police in New Delhi have arrested a man believed to be India's “biggest car thief”, with more than 5,000 cars allegedly stolen over the past three decades.
Anil Chauhan, 52, the reported kingpin of a car theft gang, was arrested last week in central Delhi.
He used to drive an auto rickshaw, a three-wheeled mode of transport, but began stealing cars in 1995.
Police said Mr Chauhan has been indicted on more than 180 criminal charges, including murder and smuggling of both weapons and endangered rhinoceros horns.
Six “country-made pistols” — improvised hand guns made in workshops — along with seven live cartridges, one stolen motorcycle and one stolen car were reportedly recovered from his possession.
The accused allegedly used to favour stealing Maruti 800s — Indian-made hatchbacks popular in the 1990s — and would sell them in the Himalayan states of Jammu and Kashmir in north-eastern India as well as in neighbouring Nepal.
He later moved to north-eastern Assam state, where he began working as a contractor with the state government, building contacts with local leaders.
But he reportedly returned to stealing cars after a number of his properties were raided and his possessions seized by the government due to money laundering charges.
He is also believed to have frequently smuggled horns from the greater one-horned rhinoceros, a vulnerable species found only in Assam.
The animal's horn is a key ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine and can fetch up to $65,000 per kilogram on the black market.
Mr Chauhan has been arrested several times, the last being in 2015, but he was released in 2020.
The Delhi police arrested him after receiving a tip following a recent spike in illegal arms dealing in the region.
With a population of 1.3 billion, India is home to millions of vehicles but suffers from a scourge of car theft.
About 240,000 vehicles were stolen in the country last year, the latest figures from the National Crimes Records Bureau show.