Behind Mundra heroin smuggling, an Afghan and 3 Indians

Behind India's biggest heroin smuggling at Mundra port, a Chennai couple, Afghan national and his Indian pointsman

The heroin, transported in two consignments, was concealed with talc powder

A general view of a container terminal at Mundra Port in Gujarat. Credit: Reuters Photo

In what is said to be the largest seizure of narcotics substance in the country, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has recovered a consignment containing 3,000 kg of heroin at Mundra port in Kutch district. The international value of the contraband is considered to be valued at Rs 21,000 crore. The DRI has described the case as “alarming”.

Officials said that following a specific intelligence input, they intercepted two containers on September 11 at Mundra port. They found 1999.579 kg of narcotic drugs, which turned out to be heroin, from one container which was concealed using the talc powder. From the second container, 988.64 kg heroin was recovered. Officials said that in the operation, a total of 2,988.219 kg heroin was seized under the provisions of NDPS Act, 1985. They said that nearly 2000 metric tons of talc power has also been seized, which was used to conceal the drugs. It took almost a week for the DRI officials to complete the panchnama and other tests to verify the substance.

The DRI is yet to apprehend the masterminds of the smuggling racket. However, an initial investigation has suggested that a husband-wife duo residing in Chennai are behind the smuggling of an “alarmingly” huge consignment of heroin. They jumped into narco-trafficking after their previous ventures failed to take off, sources in the DRI said. The couple, under DRI custody till September 30, had allegedly imported another consignment, which went unnoticed by the security agencies, sometime in July.

Also Read | TDP alleges 'Taliban-Tadepalli' links as seized heroin worth Rs 9,000 crore linked to Vijayawada firm

DRI sources said that in the month of August, 2020, Machavaram Sudhakar, 45, founded Aashi Trading Company with his wife Vaisali as its proprietor in Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. Earlier, Sudhakar had started a bunch of other ventures that failed to take off. Sources said that he also worked as a manager in at least two firms that were dealing in building materials and export-import business.

Some time last year after establishing the import firm, sources said Sudhakar came in touch with one Hasan Husain, the proprietor of firm M/s Hasan Husain Ltd, located at General Sarak, Kandahar in Afghanistan. According to official documents, accessed by DH, an investigation has led DRI sleuths to a person identified as Amit, who was working as "India contact" for the Afghan trader Husain.

Sources said that it was Amit, whose full identification is not yet revealed, who contacted Sudhakar. Sources said that Sudhakar agreed to smuggle the contraband and the first consignment landed at Mundra port as "semi-processed talc stones" sometime in July.  Amit was supposed to pay Sudhakar after the sale of the narcotics in the Indian market. It is not yet known if the couple was paid till their arrest. Investigation has revealed that one customs house agent Kuldip Singh was working closely with Amit.

"The couple managed to import the consignment of heroin disguised as talc powder which was packed in two 40-feet containers. The bill of entry had declared the country of origin of the goods as Afghanistan. We also got this confirmed through another bill issued by Focus Freight Solutions, which showed the port of loading of the containers as Bandar Abbas in Iran. We found the supplier as M/s Hasan Husain Ltd, Afghanistan. They had declared the value of the goods as $10,235, which is roughly over Rs 7.50 crore," an official said on the condition of anonymity.

The official document has described the case as “alarming” while stating that several security agencies have been apprised of the development, which also raises national security concerns. Smuggling of narcotics through sea routes has peaked in the last couple of years. Earlier in May 2019, DRI had seized 217 kg heroin from a fishing vessel off Gujarat coast and arrested six Pakistani nationals. Similarly, Gujarat Anti-Terorism Squad has also seized over 650 kg of heroin and arrested 16 Iranian, eight Pakistani and two Afghan nationals.

Meanwhile, the Adani Group, which manages the Mundra port, released a statement on Tuesday evening, saying that their statement "will put to rest the motivated, malicious and false propaganda being run on social media against the Adani Group. APSEZ (Adani Port and Special Economic Zone) is a port operator providing services to shipping lines. We have no policing authority over the containers or the millions of tonnes of cargo that pass through the terminals in Mundra or any of our ports." 

The statement reads, "the law empowers the Government of India's competent authorities such as the Customs and the DRI to open, examine and seize unlawful cargo. No port operator across the country can examine a container. Their role is limited to running the port."
 
The company also "congratulated the DRI & Customs teams for seizing the illegal drugs and apprehending the accused."  It also added that "On 16 Sep 2021, a joint operation by the DRI and Customs unearthed a large cache of contraband heroin from two containers from Afghanistan that had arrived at the Mundra International Container Terminal, Mundra Port.

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