Carriers, mostly from economically weaker sections, seldom realise the gravity of their offence
Had she followed television news or perused the day’s newspapers, Kannagi Vasu, 27, from Perambur in Chennai would not have perhaps been arrested at the international airport in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday on the charge of attempting to smuggle ketamine to Malaysia, Customs and Central Excise Department investigators say.
After Wednesday’s seizure of 5 kg of the drug from the check-in baggage of another air passenger bound to Malaysia via Colombo, the Air Intelligence Unit of the department had increased surveillance of ‘suspicious passengers’ in the sector.
In Kannagi’s case, investigators said they had prior information and detained her the moment she entered the airport.
They said Kannagi’s action seemed ‘naive’ because, ‘as a rule, experienced carriers rarely attempted a route where a smuggler had been arrested the previous day.’
She seemed entirely ‘oblivious of the drug seizure on Wednesday and her handlers had not warned her or she would have aborted the mission,’ he said.
Investigators said they found 7 kg of the drug concealed in her check-in baggage in ‘small polythene packets’ crammed inside 30 containers designed to hold ‘fancy bangles.’
Kannagi told them that the she was unaware of the contents of her baggage.
An acquaintance of hers in Paris Colony in Chennai had asked her to hand over the bag to a ‘contact’ who was scheduled to meet her at the Kuala Lumpur airport.
Kannagi, a college dropout hailing from an economically backward family, had procured a passport in 2006. She travelled abroad for the first time, to Malaysia, in August 2012.
Till she got arrested on Thursday, she had visited Malaysia 14 times, which investigators described as ‘successful cross border ketamine smuggling runs.’
She travelled to Malaysia four times through Mumbai, five times through Chennai, three times through Kolkata, and two times through Thiruvananthapuram.
Each time, she had handed over the ‘bag given to her by her Paris Colony friend’ to ‘contacts’ in Kuala Lumpur.
Enforcers said Kannagi’s ‘handlers’ paid her not less than Rs.20,000 for each ‘successful run.’
They said Kannagi’s ‘thwarted mission’ on Valentine’s Day was supposed to be her last.
She was betrothed and due to get married in March. Additional Commissioner G. Raveendranath headed the ongoing anti-drug smuggling operation.