Wednesday, April 17, 2024

In India’s highest-ever bust, 3,300 kg narcotics seized off Gujarat coast; 5 foreigners nabbed


New Delhi: Indian agencies Wednesday made their highest-ever narcotics bust from the sea as they seized 3,300 kg drugs, which sailed from an Iranian port, off the Gujarat coast and arrested five foreigners from a dhow.

The cache could be worth anything between Rs 1,300-Rs 2,000 crore in the international market, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Director General S N Pradhan said.

Home Minister Amit Shah called the joint operation by the Navy, NCB and the Gujarat Police a “historic success” and a testament of his government’s “unwavering commitment to making our nation drug-free”.

The unregistered fishing boat was intercepted on Tuesday morning at the Arabian Sea from a point about 60 nautical miles from the Indian coast and along the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). The Navy deployed its P8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and marine commandos onboard a warship apart from helicopters.

About 3,300 kg of contraband that includes 3,110 kg charas or Hashish, 158.3 kg of crystal Methamphetamine and 24.6 kg of suspected heroin has been recovered from packets that bore the stamp of ‘Ras Awad Goods Co, produce of Pakistan’, the NCB said.

There is no standard for calculating the value of drugs as it varies depending on volume, quality, region and demand and supply links. However, rough estimates peg the international price of Hashish at Rs 5-10 lakh per kg and meth (Methamphetamine) and heroin at Rs 2-5 crore per kg, according to the NCB.

The source of the drugs is found to be the Chabahar Port in Iran, the agency said.

“This is the biggest offshore narcotics seizure made in the country till date. We have seen that drug smuggling has increased through the maritime route over the last few years and hence we are jointly working with other government agencies like the Navy, Coast Guard, Customs etc. to intercept such activities,” Pradhan said.

“The smugglers and drug operators use the Arabian Sea to exploit the Indian coastline that is vulnerable. It is part of the grand design to destabilise the country using drugs,” Pradhan said.

The last big seizure from the high seas was of 2,500 kg by the NCB and the Navy off the Kerala coast in May, 2023.

The NCB said it has begun speaking to its foreign counterparts to probe the forward and backward linkages of this consignment.

NCB deputy director general (operations) Gyaneshwar Singh said the fishing boat has been brought to Porbandar and the five foreign nationals who were onboard have been arrested.

“They could either be Pakistani or Iranians. However, we have recovered no IDs from them. A Thuraya satellite phone and four mobile phones have been seized from these men,” Singh said.

The DDG said the drugs packets carry the name of a Pakistani food company and hence they “suspect” the hand of that country in mobilising this cache whose destination was being probed.

The traffickers onboard vessels carrying drugs keep in touch with buyers on the land and once they strike a deal, the consignment can land anywhere up to the southernmost tip of India, the NCB officials said.

DDG Singh said this operation was codenamed ‘Sagarmanthan-1’ and the joint teams have been working on inputs for the “last few weeks”.

“This seizure of drugs is by far the largest in terms of quantity, & was possible through #collaborative efforts of #IndianNavy’s #missiondeployed assets with the NCB,” the Navy said in a post on X.

The NCB DG said combating the drugs trafficking was a task as this stockpile has grown in Afghanistan post the installation of a new government there even as Myanmar (on India’s eastern side) was a record supplier.

Home minister Shah, in his post on X, said pursuing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a drugs-free Bharat, the agencies have achieved the grand success of making the biggest offshore seizure of drugs in the nation.


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