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Narcotics Control Bureau arrests two Sri Lankan nationals in major operation

Mohamed Afnas (left) and M.M.M. Nawas. Photo: NCB  

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has conducted a major operation culminating in the arrest of two Sri Lankan nationals who were allegedly key players of an international drug trafficking syndicate having links in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Australia.

The accused, identified as M.M.M. Nawas and Mohamed Afnas, had been operating from Chennai under assumed identities. “They were controlling mid-sea pick-up and delivery of narcotic drugs from Pakistani and Iranian vessels,” said the agency spokesperson, K.P.S. Malhotra. They had fled Sri Lanka following a crackdown by the enforcement agencies there.

“Both Nawas and Afnas hold important positions in the multinational heroin smuggling syndicate. It is also believed that there is an Interpol Red Notice issued by the Sri Lankan government against Nawas,” said Mr. Malhotra. Acting on an NCB tip-off on the syndicate, the Sri Lankan authorities had recently seized 100 kg of heroin.

Earlier, the NCB — in a joint operation with the Indian Coast Guard — detained a Sri Lankan fishing vessel named Shenaya Duwa in the territorial waters of India near the Tuticorin Port on November 26, 2020, and seized 96 kg of heroin and 18 kg of methamphetamine. Five pistols and magazines were also found with the vessel’s crew.

“Six crew members, all Sri Lankan nationals, were arrested in this connection and they are in judicial custody now,” said the NCB officer, adding that Nawas and Afnas were arrested following a two-month-long probe.

“Golden Crescent”, the largest opium cultivation and heroin production region of the world, comprising Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, has two main transit points for the processed heroin in the island nations of Sri Lanka and Maldives. The drug consignments are usually loaded in fishing vessels setting sail from the ports of Iran and Pakistan for mid-sea transfer into similar vessels of Sri Lanka and Maldives, according to the NCB.

“However, the mid-sea transfers happen in territorial waters of India or very near. There is a big network of foreign entities controlling this lucrative trade. Very reliable intelligence developed by NCB and Indian agencies over the period indicates that Pakistani drug traffickers lodged in Sri Lankan prisons for drug offences control this trade and they source and deliver large quantities of heroin from the ‘Golden Crescent’ to Sri Lankan and Maldivian entities,” said the agency.

The NCB said it was in constant touch with international agencies like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Narcotics Control Board, besides the Australian Federal Police, US Drug Enforcement Agency and the Police Narcotics Bureau of Sri Lanka, during the probe.

“The actionable intelligence developed by the NCB and agencies, which was shared with the other national drug law agencies, led to the seizure of hundreds of kilograms of heroin by the Sri Lankan and the Maldivian authorities,” said the agency.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 11:02:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/narcotics-control-bureau-arrests-two-sri-lankan-nationals-in-major-operation/article33633872.ece

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