The seizure of 100 kg of crystal methamphetamine or ‘meth’ off the coast of Sri Lanka earlier this week indicates shift in the modus operandi of international drug trafficking syndicates in the region. Previous drug seizures had heroin as the main component.
On January 4, the Sri Lankan Navy conducted an operation in the seas in coordination with its intelligence services and Police Narcotics Bureau and arrested four persons in possession of 100 kg of meth and 80 kg of hashish. A fishing trawler used for smuggling the contraband was impounded. The Sri Lanka Air Force also extended its assistance.
The seizure was different from those reported in different parts of the region over the past several months, observed an Indian Customs official.
“Earlier, large consignments of heroin smuggled via the sea route were being intercepted off the coasts of India, Sri Lanka and Maldives. The consignments originated from the Makran coast in Pakistan. This time round, meth is the main component, indicating that the stuff may now be generating more profit for smugglers. Compared to heroin, meth is easy to produce,” the official said.
In February last year, the Sri Lankan Navy had seized 400 kg of heroin along with 100 kg of crystal meth in international waters and since then, multiple such cases have been reported in the region.
About a month ago, in Sri Lanka’s Marawila, 100 kg of crystal meth was seized along with 100 kg of heroin. In November 2020, the Indian Coast Guard seized about 20 kg of meth, along with 100 kg of heroin from a Sri Lankan boat in the high seas off the Thoothukudi coast in Tamil Nadu.
The enforcement agencies suspect that “high purity meth” is being produced in large quantities in sophisticated labs set up in some parts of Pakistan, using ephedrine extracted from ephedra plants in Afghanistan, where the production capability is currently not significant.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction also noted in November, 2019 the increasing seizures of meth linked to Afghanistan in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Australia and countries in Africa.
The EU4 Monitoring Drugs Special Report titled “Emerging evidence of Afghanistan’s role as a producer and supplier of ephedrine and methamphetamine” indicated that production may also be taking place in the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan.