Enforcers suspect collusion by Malaysian officials

The Customs and Central Excise Department here on Thursday seized 7 kg of ketamine (a veterinary anaesthetic widely abused as a recreational drug in South East Asia) from Kannagi Vasu, 27, a Malaysia-bound air passenger hailing from Perumabur in Chennai.

Investigators told The Hindu on Thursday that they suspected that certain corrupt enforcers at the Kuala Lumpur airport perhaps profited from the smuggling of ketamine hydrochloride from various airports in India to Malaysia.

In the past four months, the department and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had seized the drug from at least 12 Kuala Lumpur-bound passengers from various airports in the country.

Curiously, most of the detained carriers choose the heavily policed Kuala Lumpur airport over other less-policed and remote ones in that country to ‘consign ketamine shipments from India.’

The smugglers, an international racket headed by Malaysian citizens of South Indian origin, would not land their ‘carriers’ in Kuala Lumpur airport ‘without some kind of official assurance,’ a top official told The Hindu.

He said Malaysian authorities had recently arrested some of their own enforcers on the charge of abetting smuggling of ketamine from India. Drug smugglers faced death sentence in Malaysia and at least 30 Indians were facing trial in that country for ketamine smuggling. Hence, it was important that the racket be crushed to protect Indian citizens. He said the possibility of a ‘rare few’ Malaysian customs enforcers aiding Ketamine smugglers could not be ruled out. The Customs was due to take up the matter in writing with their counterparts in Malaysia. The Malaysia-centred ketamine cartels had a large network of middlemen in India. They procured the veterinary medicine from errant pharmaceutical companies and converted it into powder form in backyard laboratories and smuggled it to Malaysia to be peddled at high-end holiday destinations as a ‘recreational drug.’ Ketamine hauls, including the recent ones in Thiruvananthapuram, New Delhi, and Hyderabad, accounted for only a fraction of the actual amount of the drug smuggled out of the country. The smugglers increasingly used educated Indian women as carriers to pre-empt ‘intrusive’ checks at airports, officials said.

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