Wagah-Attari drug network used to channel funds to terrorists: probe agencies

The scene on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border near Amritsar. File

The scene on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border near Amritsar. File   | Photo Credit: AKHILESH KUMAR

Investigations into the seizure of 532 kg of heroin on the Wagah-Attari border in Punjab last year have revealed that the network through which drug consignments were being pushed from Pakistan was also being used to transfer funds to the terrorists operating in Jammu & Kashmir, according to probe agencies.

The contraband, concealed in six rock salt consignments, was detected by the Customs Department on June 29, 2019. Gurpinder Singh, the owner of Kanishk Enterprises (Amritsar), was arrested at the spot. Subsequently, Tariq Ahmed Lone of Handwara in Jammu & Kashmir was arrested.

NIA files charge sheets

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the case in July last year and has so far filed two charge sheets. Among the arraigned are “mastermind” Ranjeet Singh Rana, Tariq Lone, his Pakistan-based distant uncle Farooq Lone, Ajay Gupta, Pakistani nationals Sahil and Sohaib Noor, besides Kanishk Enterprises, Gupta Fast Forwarders, Global Vision Impex and Aimex General Trading Company.

While the ED may soon initiate a money-laundering investigation into the drug haul, probe agencies have gathered several crucial details about the accused persons.

Also read: ED begins probe into 20 drug trafficking cases in Punjab

As it turns out, Tariq Lone — whose father was killed by terrorists when he was six years old — earlier sold shawls on commission basis. He then opened a shop. In January 2016, through social media, he came in contact with his uncle, Farooq Lone, who claimed that he was into export of goods from Pakistan to India and offered him money for helping him in some transactions in Amritsar.

Later that year, Tariq Lone allegedly went to Pakistan via Wagah border and stayed with his uncle for about two weeks, during which he was introduced to one Malli. At his instance, Tariq started working for his uncle in Amritsar. Another Pakistani national, Sahil, then became his handler, it is alleged.

The network pushed drugs into India through the Pakistan-based Vision Impex Company, owned by Noor. In Amritsar, the consignments were received allegedly via Rishabh Overseas, Kanishk Enterprises and Gupta Fast Forwards Limited of Ajay Gupta.

As huge amounts were required for the smooth operations, Tariq Lone allegedly had to use several bank accounts, including those of his relatives, friend and some bank officials.

Things went wrong for the accused persons in May 2019 when a consignment got stuck due to non-payment of customs duty by Gupta. Tariq had then contacted Kanishk Enterprises for the job, as alleged.

Another key link is said to be Hilal Ahmad Wagay, an alleged conduit from Awantipura in Jammu and Kashmir. On April 23, he was arrested by the Punjab police in Amritsar with ₹29 lakh in cash. Further probe revealed his alleged association with Hizbul Mujahdeen commander, Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo, who was later killed by security forces.

During questioning, Wagay purportedly disclosed that he and Naikoo studied in a government school in 2001-02. In July 2018, he was on his way home when two terrorists stopped him to hitch a ride. One of them, Naikoo, recognised him and they exchanged phone numbers. It is alleged that Wagay later started collecting cash from “hawala” agents in Amritsar, at Naikoo’s instance.

The “mastermind”, Rana, was arrested from Sirsa in Haryana earlier this month, after the arrest of Wagay and two others, Maninder Singh and Bikram Singh. The police have alleged that Bikram Singh had handed over the cash to Wagay at Rana’s instance.

In another “narco-terror” case, which may also be taken up for money-laundering probe, the NIA has chargesheeted 10 persons. The agency alleges the role of Harmeet Singh, the Pakistan-based chief of the Khalistan Liberation Force, and Jasmeet Singh Hakimzada, a Dubai-based “drugs smuggler and money launderer”.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 10:03:36 AM |

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