Seven exotic primates, drugs seized in southern Assam

Burmese areca nuts and foreign cigarettes — both illegal commodities — were also seized on an eventful day in Cachar and Hailakandi districts of Assam

November 15, 2022 03:26 pm | Updated 03:41 pm IST - GUWAHATI

The Assam Police has said that trucks that seem to look empty are being used to smuggle items across the border. Image for representational purpose only

The Assam Police has said that trucks that seem to look empty are being used to smuggle items across the border. Image for representational purpose only | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

The police in southern Assam’s Hailakandi and Cachar districts seized seven exotic primates and narcotic drugs worth ₹10 crore on November 14. The day also saw the Cachar police seize Burmese areca nuts and foreign-made cigarettes — both illegal commodities — in hidden chambers of trucks.

Barring the drugs seized from a house, the other items had come in trucks from Mizoram, the police said.

“The seven primates, all black, were crammed in four boxes measuring 2 ft by 1.5 ft. We brought veterinarians to check their health before handing them over to the forest department officials,” Hailakandi district’s Superintendent of Police Nabaneet Mahanta told The Hindu on Tuesday.

“Wildlife officials have not been able to identify the species but said they are endangered and not Indian,” he said.

Mr. Mahanta said two persons, including the truck driver identified as Rakesh Debbarma from Tripura, were arrested along with the seized animals. “The two said they were paid to deliver the primates to someone in Shillong, from where another unknown person was to have taken the consignment,” he added.

The destination of the animals, like at least 175 other exotic mammals, reptiles and birds seized in Assam since September, was Siliguri in northern West Bengal for delivery to private zoos and amusement parks, police said.

Empty truck trick

The Assam police said all loaded trucks from Mizoram are thoroughly checked at the border between the two States. Of late, the police have focused on empty trucks that are modified in a manner that escapes the untrained eye.

The primates were in a large empty truck in boxes that had the same colour scheme as the inside of the vehicle. “High-value illegal items are often smuggled in empty trucks as a trick to outwit the enforcement agencies,” a local police officer said.

The truck carrying the primates managed to get past the check post. But the personnel of the next police station at Ramnathpur intercepted the vehicle.

Drugs seized

Hours before the primates were rescued, the Cachar police seized 54,000 tablets of Yaba, a narcotic drug, from the residence of one Abdul Razzak in Chandipur village under Lakhipur police station. The man was arrested along with Nazim Uddin of Manipur’s Thoubal, who delivered the tablets.

“We were tracking the drug supply chain for a long time. We are now tracking the backward and forward links of the arrested duo and the confiscated drugs,” Cachar’s Superintendent of Police Numal Mahatta said, adding the market value of the seized narcotic substance was about ₹10 crore.

On Monday, the police in Cachar district’s Lailapur also seized two trucks and seized a total of 3,505 kg of Burmese areca nuts. Two people carrying the consignment in secret chambers of the truck were arrested.

Another truck intercepted at the same spot yielded 25 cartons of foreign-made cigarettes, each carton containing 50 packets. One person was arrested in this connection.

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