Officials suspect involvement of Pak-based, maritime drug traffickers
The Indian anti-drug law enforcement agencies are gathering details about the seizure of more than 600 kg of heroin and the arrest of seven Pakistani nationals by their Sri Lankan counterparts in the high seas during the past few days. A foreign vessel used for drug trafficking was also impounded.
In the latest operation conducted by the Sri Lanka Navy, in coordination with the police and intelligence agencies there, the foreign vessel carrying the drugs and the seven accused persons was intercepted about 1,370 km south of the Sri Lankan coast on September 1 and brought to Colombo harbour on September 4.
The Indian agencies suspect that the vessel, which was camouflaged as a fishing ship, had originated from Makran coast in Pakistan. Preliminary findings have suggested that the drug traffickers had started dumping the packets containing heroin into the sea on spotting the Sri Lankan security forces.
The breakthrough came after the Sri Lankan agencies, in a similar operation on August 30, seized about 290 kg of heroin and arrested five local suspects who were trying to smuggle the contraband into the island in a “fishing” trawler. The contraband had been offloaded from the same foreign vessel which was later seized on September 1.
“After a long gap, such a ‘mother’ ship that was transporting such a huge consignment has been caught. We have to determine if the same ship had been used in the past to also smuggle heroin into the Indian territory. Such ships are kept in the international waters to evade detection. In small consignments, the drugs is transported to various destinations in trawlers,” said a Customs official.
In March, the Indian Coast Guard had intercepted a Sri Lankan fishing trawler off the coast of Vizhinjam in Kerala. Over 300 kg of heroin, apart from five AK-47 rifles and 1,000 rounds of ammunition, were seized. The case was taken over by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) for further probe. It suspected that the consignment was loaded on to the trawler mid-sea from a “mother” ship belonging to a Pakistan-based drug trafficking syndicate.
In another case reported this July, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized about 300 kg of heroin from some containers at Nhava Sheva Port in Navi Mumbai. It was being smuggled in the garb of a talcum powder consignment. At the same port in August last year, the DRI had found 191 kg of heroin. Several persons, including two Customs house agents, were arrested in that case.
On November 26 last year, the Indian Coast Guard had detained a Sri Lankan vessel near the Tuticorin Port and seized 95.875 kg of heroin, besides 18.325 kg of methamphetamine, five pistols and magazines.
“There has been a spike in heroin smuggling via maritime route in the region in the past few years, particularly after restrictions have been imposed on the other means of transportation due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With the Taliban taking over of Afghanistan, which accounts for 85% of the global total of opium production, the situation will worsen further,” another official said. Heroin is processed using the morphine extracted from opium.
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