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NIA likely to take over ₹2,700 crore Punjab drug smuggling case

Gurpinder Singh, prime suspect in the case, died under mysterious circumstances on Sunday.

Gurpinder Singh, prime suspect in the case, died under mysterious circumstances on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Prime suspect in Punjab incident died suddenly in hospital

Days before the prime suspect in a ₹2,700-crore drug haul case in Punjab died under mysterious circumstances at the Amritsar Central Jail, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had written to the Centre seeking to take over the investigation.

The agency suspects that the case is linked to another terror case pertaining to trade across the Line of Control (LoC) in the Kashmir Valley that it is investigating.

Linked to cross-LoC trade

The Home Ministry on April 18 suspended the cross-LoC trade in J&K, citing “funnelling of illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency” as reasons.

Gurpinder Singh, a rock salt trader, and Tariq Ahmad Lone, a trader from Handwara in J&K, were arrested on June 29 by Customs officials for allegedly smuggling narcotics in a truck through the integrated check post on the Attari border from Pakistan. The drugs were found during a raid by the Amritsar-based Customs Preventive Commissionerate, which then seized 532 kg of suspected heroin. The consignment, hidden under bags of salt in the truck from Pakistan, was seized in the import section at the check post.

Singh and Lone were lodged in the same ward in the Jail. However, Singh, a diabetic, was rushed to Guru Nanak Dev Hospital in the city on Sunday but was declared brought dead. He was a crucial link to establish the drug chain as it was on a licence held by his company, Kanishka Enterprises, that the drugs were smuggled in.

“The Customs Department did not take him into police custody. The Home Ministry is likely to hand over the case to the NIA, all aspects are being ascertained. Though NIA can suo motu take over the case, the convention is to get the State government's nod,” a senior official said.

However, a top source in the Punjab government said the State police was also conducting parallel investigations and had not taken a decision on handing over the case to the NIA.

On July 12, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh said the State government was committed to “the total elimination of drugs” being smuggled into the State not just from Pakistan but also from within the country, especially Kashmir.

On the death of the suspect, Additional Director-General of Police (Jails) P.K. Sinha said, “A judicial inquiry would be completed, and action will be taken.”

The Amritsar-based Customs Preventive Commissionerate had during a raid on June 29 seized 532 kilogram of suspected heroin. The consignment, hidden under bags of salt in the truck from Pakistan, was seized in the import section at the checkpost.

The Chief Minister is learnt to have raised the issue of drug consignments coming from Pakistan with Home Minister Amit Shah earlier this month. Punjab is hosting an inter-State meeting of all northern States on July 25 where Governor of Jammu and Kashmir is also expected to attend the meeting.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 11:49:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nia-likely-to-take-over-2700-crore-punjab-drug-smuggling-case/article28692049.ece

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