The Gujarat anti-terrorist squad claimed to have seized 75.3 kg of heroin estimated to be worth Rs 376.5 crore from a container near the Mundra port in Kutch district, an official said on Tuesday. The contraband, hidden inside fabric rolls to dodge the authorities, was sent from the United Arab Emirates and was meant to be transported to Punjab, Gujarat director general of police Ashish Bhatia said.
The Punjab Police recently gave a tip-off to the Gujarat ATS that a shipping container, which arrived at the Mundra port about two-and-a-half months ago might be containing drugs and the cargo was meant to be delivered in Punjab, Bhatia told reporters in Gandhinagar. “After getting the basic information, a Gujarat ATS team along with a Punjab Police sub-inspector reached Mundra and located the suspected container kept at a container freight station near the port. It arrived at the Mundra port on May 13 from Ajman Free Zone in the UAE," he said.
During a close inspection of 540 fabric rolls kept in the container, the heroin powder was found inside 64 of them, he said. “A cloth was wrapped on long cylindrical pipes made of cardboard. Drug dealers had created a cavity by putting a plastic pipe of a larger diameter on the cardboard pipe. Heroin was filled in the cavity and then sealed tightly using carbon tapes so that it goes undetected in X-ray check," the official said.
The ATS recovered 75.3 kg heroin of high purity estimated to be Rs 376.5 crore in the international market, Bhatia said. The container was meant to be transported to Punjab, he said adding that no arrest has been made yet. The container was sent by one Green Forest General Trading in the UAE and it was received by Jovial Container Lines, a West Bengal-based delivery agent having its office at Gandhidham in Kutch, he said.
Asked why no action was taken against the Mundra port authorities, Bhatia said it was wrong to pinpoint only one port. “Drug peddlers will use whatever channel they find suitable to send drugs to India. Not just Mundra, we had seized drugs from other Gujarat ports like Kandla and Pipavav in the recent past. Drugs had also been seized from the Nhava Sheva port in Maharashtra, in Chennai and in West Bengal too," he said.
The official said most of the drugs sent to the Gujarat ports had been seized due to alertness of the state police and other agencies. Various state and central agencies, including the ATS and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), have in the recent past seized drugs worth crores of rupees from shipping containers arriving at Gujarat ports from other countries.
The DRI in September last year seized nearly 3,000 kg of heroin, believed to have originated in Afghanistan and worth about Rs 21,000 crore in global markets, from two containers at the Mundra port. In May, the DRI seized 56 kg cocaine, estimated to be worth around Rs 500 crore, from a container near the Mundra port.
In April, the DRI seized 205.6 kg heroin worth Rs 1,439 crore from a container near the Kandla port in Kutch. Around the same period, the Gujarat ATS and DRI in a joint operation recovered nearly 90 kg heroin worth Rs 450 crore from a shipping container that arrived from Iran at the Pipavav port in Amreli district.
Consignment Was to Be Routed Via Punjab: DGP
Punjab Police said the consignment seized from Mundra Port was to be routed to some other place via Punjab. DGP Gaurav Yadav said the container in which the drugs were hidden was loaded from Jebel Ali port in UAE and booked by an importer from Malerkotla, Punjab. As per preliminary investigations, the DGP said as the links of the container have been established with Punjab, this consignment was to be routed to some other place via Punjab. Punjab part is being explored and investigated, he added.
Yadav said following inputs, the state special operation cell of SAS Nagar immediately sent police teams to Gujarat and deputed them at Mundra Port. In coordination with the central agency and Gujarat ATS, searches were made with the help of customs, he said, adding that after following due procedure and documentation, the container was opened up which led to the recovery of a big haul of 75 kg heroin.
The consignment was opened in presence of customs officials and magistrate, he said. To ascertain backward and forward linkages, some suspected persons from Malerkotla and Ludhiana found to be linked with this import of consignment have been called for questioning by the concerned district police, Yadav added.
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