Police seize 75 kg heroin near Mundra port in Gujarat

Officials say Gujarat’s ports and porous sea coast are being increasingly used as transit centres to smuggle drugs

July 12, 2022 06:49 pm | Updated July 13, 2022 07:12 am IST - AHMEDABAD

The container terminal at Mundra port in Gujarat.

The container terminal at Mundra port in Gujarat. | Photo Credit: Reuters

In a joint operation, Punjab Police and the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) have seized nearly 75 kg of heroin, estimated to be worth over ₹375 crore, from a container near the Mundra port in Kutch district. The container, which originated from Dubai and was kept at a container freight station outside the port, was searched based on a specific tip-off received from intelligence sources.

“We have seized the container and found around 75 kg of high quality heroin worth ₹375 crore. Our probe is underway,” Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP) Ashish Bhatia told media persons at a briefing in Gandhinagar.

Mr. Bhatia said the suspected container was officially declared as carrying textiles in the shipping bills and Customs filings but when it was inspected based on specific inputs, officials stumbled upon the large quantity of heroin hidden in packets. "We got suspicious as the containers were only one-third filled, which seldom happens. There were 540 textile rolls, out of which 64 carried heroin. To bypass the X-ray machine, plastic wrappers were used to conceal the drugs, while adhesive tape was used to cover the plastic layer," the DGP added.

The agency that imported the cargo is based in Kolkata and has an office in Gandhidham in Kutch. Mr. Bhatia said that the consignment was meant for Punjab and north India, and the cargo was loaded in Dubai. Officials are investigating the role of importers, and others, in the seizure.

In April this year, the ATS, in a joint operation with with the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), had seized heroin worth ₹1,300 crore from Kandla port in Kutch. In Mundra, this is the second major consignment of drugs to be intercepted in less than a year’s time.

In September 2021, the DRI, in the country’s largest drug haul, had intercepted three containers shipped from Bandar Abbas port in Iran, to Mundra. Officially, the seized containers were carrying semi-processed talc stones but they were actually loaded with 2,988.21 kg or nearly three metric tonnes of heroin worth more than ₹21,000 crore in the international market. Along with that seizure, the DRI had arrested a couple from Chennai, whose firm had officially imported the cargo, and a few others, including some Afghan nationals, and subsequently the probe was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to look into the terror angle in the drug smuggling case.

Ports in Gujarat a new playground for smuggling

In recent years, drug peddlers and smuggling mafias have turned to transporting drugs via containers, and have made the ports in Gujarat a new playground for smuggling. According to officials of State and Central agencies, Gujarat’s ports and porous sea coast are increasingly being used as transit centres to smuggle contraband drugs into the country. This has emerged as the biggest narco-terrorism threat as the containers carry massive quantities of drugs, and a single miss by the authorities results in crores of profits allegedly used to fund terror activities in the country.

In 2022, six cases of drug seizures were filed by the Gujarat ATS, involving 717.3 kg of drugs with a market value of approximately ₹3,586 crore. Twenty-three persons, including 16 Pakistani nationals and three Afghan nationals, were arrested in these cases.

In 2020 and 2021, five cases were lodged by the ATS, in which 327 kg of drugs with a market value of approximately ₹1,591 crore were seized. In these cases, 42 people, including 12 Pakistani nationals, seven Iranian nationals and one Nigerian national have been arrested.

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