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ED to probe money laundering in 3,000 kg of Afghan heroin detected at Mundra Port

The consignment, originating from Afghanistan, now under Taliban rule, was shipped to Gujarat on September 13-14 via Iran’s Bandar Abbas Port and was hidden inside the containers of semi-processed Afghan talc, imported by a firm – Ashi Trading Company - based in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada.
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized the consignment after it was smuggled from Afghanistan’s Kandahar district via Iran’s Bandar Abbas port. (Image used for representation). (FILE PHOTO.)
Published on Sep 21, 2021 08:31 PM IST
By Neeraj Chauhan

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is all set to launch a money laundering investigation into the seizure of the largest ever consignment of Afghan heroin – approximately 3,000 kg heroin worth 21,000 crore – from two containers at Mundra port in Gujarat last week, as the case has larger international ramifications, people familiar with the developments said.

HT reported on Monday that the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had seized the consignment after it was smuggled from Afghanistan’s Kandahar district via Iran’s Bandar Abbas port.

Five people including a Chennai based couple – Govindaraju Durga Purna Vaishali and her husband Machavaram Sudhakar, two Afghan nationals and another Indian citizen have already been arrested by the DRI in the case.

A senior ED official said –“With a 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.”

The consignment, originating from Afghanistan, now under Taliban rule, was shipped to Gujarat on September 13-14 via Iran’s Bandar Abbas Port and was hidden inside the containers of semi-processed Afghan talc, imported by a firm – Ashi Trading Company - based in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada.

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Vijayawada Police said in a statement on Tuesday that the drugs consignment has no link with the city except that an address linked to the couple is from there.

“It has been learnt that Durga Purna Vaishali, resident of Chennai had taken GST registration in August 2020 on the address at Satyanarayana Puram, Gadiyaramvari Street, Vijayawada. Sudhakar, a resident of Chennai, is the husband of Vaishali. The above building is owned by Govindaraju Taraka who happened to be the mother of Vaishali,” said a Vijayawada police statement.

It added that Vaishali took Import and Export Licence (IEC Code) from the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) for export and import purpose”.

It said the smuggled heroin in the guise of talcum powder that landed at Mundra Port was intended to reach Delhi, but not to Vijayawada as alleged in some sections of the media.

The two containers had 1,999.58 kg and 988.64 kg heroin packed respectively, layered between the talc to avoid detection by security and customs officials.

Officials have said the substance is “very high quality” heroin originated in Afghanistan and it is worth 7 crore per kg in the international market, which makes it the largest seizure in India ever.

There have already been multiple meetings among central agencies to discuss the impact in terms of drugs smuggling, infiltration of foreign terrorists and terror activities in India following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on August 15.

The Afghanistan government had briefly banned the export of talc in 2015, which is a major source of funding for both Taliban and Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) as they get $10 to $12 per tonne mined talc, used in baby powder, in Nangarhar, Sherzad and Achin areas, said a counterterrorism official who asked not to be named.

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