Couple held in Afghan heroin seizure at Mundra Port got ₹10-12 lakh: Probe
New Delhi: Initial investigations into the seizure of the largest ever single cache of Afghan heroin from Mundra port last week have so far revealed that a Chennai couple whose import firm received the drugs in the garb of talc powder received a commission of ₹10-12 lakh for the job, officials familiar with the probe said on Tuesday.
The couple – Govindaraju Durga Purna Vaishali and her husband Machavaram Sudhakar – are being interrogated about the “bigger players” behind smuggling of such a huge consignment. They were arrested last week after 3,000kg high-quality heroin worth ₹21,000 crore in the international market was seized by the Directorate of Revenue and Intelligence (DRI) from two containers shipped from Kandahar and imported via Iran’s Bandar Abbas port by their Vijaywada-registered firm – Aashi Trading Company.
An official dealing with narco-terrorism said they have information that Vaishali and Sudhakar were taking instructions from some people based in Afghanistan and Iran. “Their role in smuggling drugs previously in the garb of imports is being investigated but they appear to be small players as their commission was very low”.
Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has jumped to probe 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 (PMLA) and to seize the assets of conspirators,” said an ED officer, asking not to be named.
HT reported about the largest-ever heroin consignment seizure on Monday.
The Congress tried to corner the government and Adani Group, which runs the Mundra port in Gujarat, over the seizure. Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said: “The drugs sent from Afghanistan to India via Iran port were found on Mundra port of Gujarat. It is a serious issue for India when you have a look at its price and amount. It is a conspiracy to throw our youth into drug addiction. The money made through the sales of these drugs in India is used to fuel terrorism against our nation. This issue is serious and raises a lot of questions.”
He asked why the Centre did not appointed a regular director-general of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) for the past 18 months.
The Adani Group said in a statement that it has no policing authority of ports. “The law empowers the government of India’s competent authorities such as the Customs and the DRI to open, examine and seize unlawful cargo. No port operator across the country can examine a container. Their role is limited to running the port. We sincerely hope that this statement will put to rest the motivated, malicious and false propaganda being run on social media against the Adani Group. APSEZ is a port operator providing services to shipping lines, We have no policing authority over the containers or the millions of tonnes of cargo that pass through the terminals in Mundra or any of our ports”, said a spokesperson of Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd (APSEZ).”
Apart from the Chennai couple, DRI has arrested four Afghan nationals and an Indian citizen from Delhi-National Capital Region in last two days while several places have been raided, during which additional 20kg heroin and 8kg cocaine were seized.
The Vijaywada Police said in a statement on Tuesday that the drugs consignment has no link with the city except that an address linked to the Chennai couple is from there.
“It is learnt that Durga Purna Vaishali, resident of Chennai has taken GST registration in August 2020 on the address at Satyanarayana Puram, Gadiyaramvari Street, Vijaywada. Sudhakar, a resident of Chennai, is the husband of Vaishali. The above address building is owned by Govindaraju Taraka who happened to be the mother of Vaishali,” said the Vijaywada Police.