2,500kg meth seized by NCB, Navy off Kerala coast: ‘Largest ever haul in India’
A Pakistani national was detained in connection with the drug bust after the vessel was intercepted in Indian waters in the Indian Ocean, NCB said in a statement
At least 2,500 kg drugs, suspected to be methamphetamine and estimated to be around ₹12,000 crore, was seized from a large vessel near the Kerala coast in a joint operation by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and Indian Navy, the anti-drug agency said on Saturday.
A Pakistani national was detained in connection with the drug bust after the vessel was intercepted in Indian waters in the Indian Ocean, NCB said in a statement. The recovered contraband along with the suspect were brought to the Mattancherry Wharf in Cochin on Saturday, said NCB officials, adding the agency has begun a probe to identify the receivers of the consignment.
The agency termed it the largest seizure of methamphetamine in the country, with officials saying the drug was seized from a “mother ship”. According to NCB, a mother ship is a large vessel carrying huge quantities of narcotics for distribution to receiving boats along the route.
The statement further said that the source of the drug was the “Death Cresent”. NCB identifies regions in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran as a death crescent because most of the contraband smuggled into the country come from these three countries.
The agency said that while working with the navy’s intelligence wing, officials came across an input about a “mother ship” carrying a large quantity of methamphetamine from the Makran coast around Pakistan and Iran.
“Continuous intelligence collection and analysis resulted in identification of a highly probable route that the mother ship would take for distribution of contraband,” said an NCB spokesperson. “Accordingly, these details were shared with Indian Navy and a naval ship was deployed in the vicinity.”
Based on this input, the spokesperson added, “a large vessel was intercepted by the navy and 134 sacks of suspected methamphetamine were recovered from the ship.”
After the vessel was intercepted, the Pakistani national tried to flee on a speed boat, but Indian Navy officials intercepted it, NCB officials said, adding they are questioning the suspect. The drugs were concealed in rice bags purportedly of a Pakistan-based rice company, the officials said.
NCB’s deputy director general (operations) Sanjay Kumar Singh said the case was busted as part of Operation Samudragupt, launched by the agency in January 2022.
“The primary objective of the operation was to collect actionable inputs which could lead to interception of ships carrying narcotics contraband,” Singh said. “For this task, the team exchanged and gathered information from drug law enforcement agencies such as DRI, ATS Gujarat etc. and intelligence agencies such as Intelligence Wing of Indian Navy, NTRO.”
As part of the operation, NCB has in the past recovered drugs from coast of Gujarat in February 2022 and another in October 2022. In both cases, officials found the source of drugs to be in Afghanistan and Baluchistan.
The operation Samudragupt is part of the Union government’s plan to make India drug-free by 2047. Union home minister Amit Shah in an interview to HT on May 3 said the government has intensified its campaign against cartels smuggling contraband drugs into the country by setting into motion a multi-pronged strategy to combat the trafficking and abuse of drugs.
Instead of isolated cases, the government and the agencies are approaching these from “top to bottom and bottom to top”, the minister had said. “For instance, if we recover a packet of drug from a child, it is not an isolated case, but we investigate where the drug entered the country from, the entire network is investigated,” he said. “Same way, when drugs are confiscated at the port or airport or the border then we investigate where it was bound for.”
As part of the operation, NCB has recovered around 3,200 kg methamphetamine, 500kg heroin and 529 kg of hashish so far. The NCB has also shared intelligence with Sri Lankan navy and Maldives police and ensured the recovery of 286 kg heroin and 128 kg methamphetamine by the two countries in March this year.