The six Iranians arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) last month, may have been skilled at manufacturing the party drug methamphetamine, but were not too knowledgeable about the ingredients.
Unable to tell the difference between genuine and fake ephedrine, a key ingredient of methamphetamine, Masoud Naserziyary (34), Hossein Aghaei (39), Amir Dehdashti (24), Mohammadreza Zorgari (33), Seyed Hosseini (35) and Gulam Azad (54), were cheated of Rs 30 lakh during their visit to Mumbai in December last year.
A senior NCB official said the Iranians had visited Mumbai last year to procure ephedrine and smuggle it out of the country in order to manufacture methamphetamine. One kg of methamphetamine costs around Rs 1 crore in the international market. In India, the smugglers procure ephedrine, extracted from cough and cold tablets, for around Rs 1 lakh per kg.
However, the supplier, whose identity has been withheld by the department as he is still out of the agency’s clutches, delivered them phenylpropanolamine (PPA) hydrochloride instead. This is a much cheaper chemical in white powder form, which is identical to ephedrine in appearance.
Officials said the Iranians learnt that they had been cheated only when they had smuggled the substance to a South East Asian country to manufacture methamphetamine.
“They returned to Mumbai in June to discuss another offer for manufacturing methamphetamine,” the official said. This time they were called by Kisoor Nandan, the Indian-born Dutch national, who was arrested last month during the NCB raid.
The official said the Iranians, bitten once, said they were ready to manufacture methamphetamine only on condition that they would neither have to arrange for ephedrine nor invest any money. “They agreed to come only to manufacture methamphetamine with ready ingredients, for a commission of US $1,500 per kg per head,” the official said.
Officials said that after discussion and finalising the commission in June, they left Mumbai and returned in August on tourist visas to manufacture the drug when they were caught.