102kg of heroin from Afghanistan busted at Attari

Updated on Apr 25, 2022 01:52 AM IST

The contraband, which was concealed in several cylindrical logs resembling liquorice (mulethi), is worth ₹700 crore in the international market, officials said.

The banned drug was detected late on Saturday night after the goods were scanned on an X-ray machine, according to Rahul Nangare, Amritsar Customs commissioner (preventive). (File image)(HT_PRINT)
The banned drug was detected late on Saturday night after the goods were scanned on an X-ray machine, according to Rahul Nangare, Amritsar Customs commissioner (preventive). (File image)(HT_PRINT)
ByAnil Sharma, Amritsar

Indian customs seized 102kg of heroin hidden in consignment of liquorice that was being imported from Afghanistan at the Attari check post, which monitors the country’s trade with Pakistan and Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The contraband, which was concealed in several cylindrical logs resembling liquorice (mulethi), is worth 700 crore in the international market, officials said.

The banned drug was detected late on Saturday night after the goods were scanned on an X-ray machine, according to Rahul Nangare, Amritsar Customs commissioner (preventive).

“Some irregular spots were seen by the alert duty officer in X-ray images in the consignment. When all the bags were opened, it was seen that some contained small cylindrical wooden logs (not liquorice), which appeared to be sealed at both ends by sawdust mixed in adhesive material,” Nangare said.

“These logs were then broken open, revealing a machine-made cavity in each such log, which was filled with a powdery material suspected to be a narcotics substance. The substance was tested with a drugs detection test kit both by the customs as well as BSF (Border Security Force) separately and they showed positive results for narcotics material,” he said. “The total weight of such wooden logs was about 475kg, from which 102kg of suspected heroin was extracted. Further investigation is going on.”

The liquorice consignment was imported from Afghanistan by a Delhi-based importer.

“The Afghanistani truck had returned back after unloading the mulethi consignment at the check post’s godown number 2 on Friday. There were 340 sacks of mulethi,” an official at the check post said on condition of anonymity.

“On Saturday, when customs officials started clearing the stock, the suspected contraband was detected in the X-ray machine installed in the godown. Following this, all the sacks were thoroughly checked. Two to three wooden logs concealing heroin were recovered from almost each sack,” he added.

Customs authorities, however, did not disclose the name of the importer, citing the ongoing investigation. “Our process to register a case regarding the seizure is still on and we can’t comment about the importer or the importing firm until our investigation concludes,” said assistant commissioner Balbir Singh Mangat.

Land Port Authority of India had installed X-ray machines in all three godowns of the check post around a year ago.

The driver of the truck that contained the consignment managed to return because the truck scanner at the check post was not working. “The truck was not scanned through the truck scanner when it entered India on Friday because for the scanner has been lying dysfunctional,” said a customs official, who didn’t wish to be named.

The 23 crore truck scanner project was announced in March 2017. Of the five truck scanners imported from the US, the first one was installed at the Attari check post. The customs department, which is responsible for checking trucks importing goods at the check post, had conducted unsuccessful trials on the scanner after it was installed in November 2019. The Land Port Authority tried to repair the scanner but failed to fix it.

Since the foundation stone of the check post was laid in 2010, there has been a demand for a truck scanner as manual checking of vehicles by customs officials with sniffer dogs is not foolproof and has sometimes led to clearing of contraband materials.

In June 2019, customs officials had seized 530.6kg of heroin at the check post. The drugs were concealed in bags of salt from Pakistan. Several persons were arrested in the case and the probe was later handed over to the National Investigation Agency after a request from the Punjab government to Union home minister Amit Shah.

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