Coast Guard makes record 1,500 kg heroin haul from vessel off Gujarat coast
An official of the Porbandar Special Operations Group said the ICG has called them for a meeting regarding the drug haul.india Updated: Jul 31, 2017 09:42 IST
The Coast Guard seized 1,500kg of heroin from a merchant ship off the Gujarat shoreline on Saturday, which could be the biggest single haul of narcotics in India.
The contraband is estimated to be around Rs 4,500 crore in the international market.
The vessel was spotted around 380km off Dwarka through surveillance mounted by the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), a government intelligence-gathering agency.
“The NTRO shared the intelligence about the suspect vessel on July 27 and the Coast Guard was notified. Intelligence suggested the crew was negotiating the mode of payment for the contraband and its intended destination,” said an official who didn’t wish to be named.
They finally decided the hawala channel for payment, the official added.
The NTRO sent out updates and the Coast Guard pressed its ships and aircraft to observe and prevent the vessel from escaping. The Panama-registered vessel, Prince, was finally intercepted on Saturday and brought to Porbandar.
“Eight crew members were arrested. They are Indian. They are being questioned to know the final destination of the contraband,” said an official of the Narcotics Control Bureau, which is now investigating the case.
Law doesn’t allow bail to anyone caught smuggling or possessing narcotics in India.
Sources in the narcotics bureau said the ship’s last port of call was Chabahar in Iran and it was probably carrying Afghan heroin for an Indian gang.
The banned drug is smuggled from Afghanistan through neighbouring Pakistan or Iran, making its way into India through the northern border and western coastal waters.
According to former narcotics bureau zonal director Rohit Sharma, drug cartels are increasingly using the maritime route to bring heroin from Afghanistan to the Makran coast, where the coastlines of Pakistan and Iran meet.
“And from there, the drug is taken across the Indian Ocean to western markets via east Africa,” he said. Smugglers prefer the east African coastline as it is inadequately policed.
Afghan opiates are routed through Makran, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
“The Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), which patrols the western Indian Ocean region, seized over 9,300kg of high-purity heroin on dhows over the past three years, strengthening the evidence that large volumes of heroin cross the Indian Ocean,” it said after a ministerial meeting in Colombo last November.
Sri Lankan authorities seized 800kg of cocaine worth Rs 4,000 crore from an India-bound ship docked at the Colombo port last December. The ship had sailed from Ecuador.
In April last year, Maharashtra police confiscated 18.5 tonnes of the banned drug Ephedrine in Solapur, valued at Rs 2,000 crore. Ephedrine is synthesised to produce the popular party narcotic methamphetamine.
Goa police arrested a 45-year-old Briton in 2013 after more than 4kg of amphetamines were seized from him.