Three suspects, including foreign national, preparing to smuggle contraband to Maldives

Sleuths of the Narcotics Control Bureau on Sunday stormed into a lodge at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and seized two kg of heroin from a three-member gang. The suspects, including a foreign national, were preparing to smuggle the contraband to Maldives, agency sources said.

Acting on a tip-off, a NCB team raided the lodge and took custody of the accused. While two were natives of Tuticorin, the third was a buyer from Male in Maldives. The heroin worth more than Rs. 2 crore in the international market was found concealed in polythene covers. The modus operandi of the gang was to source the heroin from north India and smuggle it to Male by boat or ships, the sources said.

NCB’s South Zonal Director Prem Anand Sinha said the suspects operated from Tuticorin but processed cash transactions only in Thiruvananthapuram. “We have been following this gang since January this year. They were indulging in smuggling of drugs and other contraband since a couple of years. This is the first seizure of heroin in the last one year,’’ he said.

Investigators believe that the gang has links with international drug peddlers mainly operating across India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and South-East Asia.

In March this year, the NCB had unearthed a clandestine laboratory manufacturing drugs at a remote village in Sivaganga district. Two Iranian nationals, including a former prisoner of war, were arrested on charges of manufacturing Methamphetamine, an addictive stimulant. They had planned to export it.

NCB officials say the smuggling of heroin or brown sugar had come down over the years owing to enhanced surveillance by various drug law-enforcing agencies.

Moreover, the punishment under the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act was stringent. The area of cultivation of opium was cut down drastically leaving little scope for pilferage.

Hence drug peddlers took to smuggling of stimulants like Ephedrine, Ketamine and Methamphetamine to Malaysia and other countries where a market for these contraband substances had emerged.