DRI busts drone smuggling network

May 16, 2019 11:26 pm | Updated 11:26 pm IST - AHMEDABAD

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Thursday arrested one person in Ahmedabad while busting a network operating across India, China, Pakistan and Myanmar that had been engaged in smuggling high-end drones.

Accusing the arrested person Chinmay Anand of being the network’s kingpin, the DRI also seized high-end drones and recovered other equipment that is normally used in espionage and surveillance.

According to the DRI, the drones were supplied by Chinese companies, based on orders received from Pakistan-based firms, to a warehouse in Dehong, in China’s Yunnan province. From Dehong, which is located close to Myanmar’s eastern border, the drones were smuggled into Myanmar and from there to India.

“From Dehong in China, the Myanmarese smugglers were tasked with getting them to and across the China-Myanmar international border into Myanmar,” the DRI said in a statement. “Once in Myanmar, these drones were transported hundreds of kilometres to a place called Tamu in Myanmar. From Tamu they were transported across the international border into India through Moreh and on to Imphal,” it added.

While all transportation up to Imphal was by various modes of road transport, the final leg from Imphal to Ahmedabad was done using domestic airlines by misdeclaring the prohibited cargo as camera stands, household goods, electronic items, etc. to elude detection by Indian agencies.

“From Ahmedabad, the drones were supplied to various locations across the country by using private couriers,” the DRI said. “The money against the smuggled drones were sent by the Ahmedabad based smuggler to the Chinese company through hawala channels operating out of Mumbai,” it added.

The seized articles include 85 high-end drones of DJI Mavic, DJI Phantom and MI brands. Besides, 27 DJI Mavic Air Fly More Kit and 34 DJI Ronin S Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for DSLR and mirror-less cameras used in film shootings were also recovered.

The agency contended that the racket had been going on since 2017 and that drones worth ₹10 crore had already been smuggled into and supplied in the country.

“Illegal drones in private hands can pose a threat to national security as they can be used for espionage and sabotage purposes by the enemy states and anti-national and terrorist groups,” the DRI asserted.

Considering the security risk involved with regard to drones, equipment type approval (ETA) from the Wireless Planning and Co-ordination (WPC) wing of the Department of Telecommunications, import clearances from the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) and other approvals are required to import drones into the country.

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