In a significant breakthrough that could provide the first evidence of alleged Chinese involvement in supply of arms to Indian insurgent outfits, Thailand on Saturday picked up a key middleman whose identity had been disclosed by arrested National Socialist Council of Nagaland (I-M) operative Anthony Shimray.
Willy Naruenartwanicha, referred to as Willy Narue by Shimray, is a Thai national and was picked up at Indias request. According to Shimray, Willy brokered significant arms deals between Chinese suppliers and Northeast insurgent outfits.
A team from the National Investigative Agency is learnt to have reached Bangkok after Thai authorities agreed to grant access for questioning. Sources said the process for extradition has been initiated.
The arrest, from Willys home in Bangkok, is therefore technically provisional for now and is dependent on the fate of the extradition request. Police Col Charoen Sisasalak said Willy, 57, was accused of buying weapons to be sold to Naga rebels in northeastern India.
During initial questioning, Willy told police he was a restaurant owner in Bangkok and denied any involvement in arms deals, Charoen added.
Ostensibly running a spa business in Thailand, Willy had emerged as a key figure during the interrogation of Shimray, who had bewildered Indian interrogators with the details of his alleged dealings, the quantum of arms and ammunition involved and the sheer expanse of his reported network from China and North Korea to Thailand and Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar.
Shimray had reportedly told interrogators that Willy was his main interlocutor with Chinese arms dealers and had brokered a $2 million deal involving supply of some 1,000 firearms, including 600 AK-47s and ammunition. The deal, according to the NIA chargesheet, was renegotiated to $1 million.
Following this, Shimray had come to India to both renew his Thai visa and apparently discuss the deal with his NSCN leadership. He had come in from Nepal, but the NIA, acting on a tip-off, had arrested him at Patna station on October 2, 2010.
He had allegedly revealed that he had met Willy just a week before in Bangkok to firm up the deal, and further claimed that Willy had in 2007 taken him to a Chinese named Yuthan, a reliable conduit for Chinese supplies. Yuthan was allegedly working with TCL, a