In one of the single biggest hauls of heroin in the country, amounting to nearly 3,000 kg, anti-smuggling intelligence officials intercepted the consignment from the western state of Gujarat.
The consignment of drugs reportedly worth around US$2.7billion in the global market was discovered at Mundra port in Kutch district on September 16 in two shipping containers imported from Bandar Abbas Port in Iran by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials, acting on a tip-off.
Officials said the consignment which originated from Afghanistan had been officially declared as semi-processed talc stones and further forensic testing was underway.
“Physical verification of the containers showed there were three layers made in each of the bags kept in the containers, where the drug consignment was mixed in layers of talc stones stacked upon each other. We are trying to probe the drug nexus,” said a senior investigating official.
Six persons, including Afghan nationals, held in Delhi with cocaine and heroin in their possession on Tuesday are being probed for possible links to the case.
A couple that runs an import firm from the southern city of Chennai have also been arrested. They are being interrogated about the “bigger players” behind smuggling of such a huge consignment, officials said.
DRI officials said the value of the seized heroin per kilogram was about $650,000 to $800,000 in the international market.
Another financial investigating agency, the Enforcement Directorate, has also jumped into the probe looking into a money laundering angle in the recovery as it wants to unearth the international syndicate behind it and seize their assets.
“With possible Taliban-Pakistan-Afghanistan link emerging in the high-quality heroin consignment smuggled through a shell company, it is a
fit case to be probed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and to seize the assets of conspirators,” said an official.
Searches have been conducted in multiple cities across India, including the national capital, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Chennai.
The huge seizure promoted the country’s principal Opposition party, the Congress to ask how such a drug syndicate was operating in India "under the nose" of the government as well as the Narcotics Control Bureau.
“Why is Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, who are from Gujarat, unable to break this drug syndicate?” queried party spokesperson Pawan Khera.
Khera alleged that smuggling of drugs into India has increased substantially over the past few months, and this has been going on for a few years now.
"This not only can destroy the present and future of the youth of India, but it is the potential funding route for the funding of terrorist organisations globally," Khera told the media.
The party tried to corner the government and industrial Adani Group, which runs the Mundra port in Gujarat, over the seizure.
Over the last few years, the Gujarat coast has become the favoured route for smuggling narcotic drugs into India from Pakistan, Iran, or Afghanistan.
Earlier in May 2019, DRI had seized 217 kg heroin from a fishing vessel off Gujarat coast and arrested six Pakistani nationals.
Similarly, the Gujarat Anti-Terorism Squad has also seized over 650 kg of heroin and arrested 16 Iranian, eight Pakistani and two Afghan nationals.
Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Its opium harvest accounts for more than 80% of the world's supply.