NIA raids in Delhi-NCR in Mundra drug haul case
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday carried out raids at five locations in Delhi and Noida in connection with the 3,000 kg Afghan heroin consignment seized from Mundra port last month.
The drug haul, worth an estimated ₹21,000 crore, was the largest ever seizure in India. NIA is investigating a narco-terror link as the heroin was sent to India from Kandahar after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15.
The places raided include residential premises of some suspects and godowns at Lajpat Nagar, Alipur, Khera Kalan in New Delhi and Noida, the federal anti-terror agency said in a statement.
The premises were linked to individuals, including some Afghan nationals, under investigation in the case, an official said, requesting anonymity.
The consignment was intercepted by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on September 14 and 15 on the basis of specific intelligence that high-quality heroin was being smuggled in two containers from Afghanistan to Gujarat’s Mundra port via Iran’s Bandar Abbas port.
The two containers checked by India’s apex anti-smuggling agency had 1,999.58 kg and 988.64 kg heroin packed and layered between talc stones to avoid detection by security and customs officials. HT exclusively reported the seizure on September 20.
At least eight people, including Chennai couple Govindaraju Durga Purna Vaishali and Machavaram Sudhakar, who allegedly imported the heroin concealed in semi-processed talc stones through their Vijaywada-registered Aashi Trading Company from a Kandahar-based company; four Afghan nationals; and an Uzbek woman and others have been arrested by the DRI so far.
The home ministry transferred the case to NIA last week to probe any Taliban-Pakistan connection.
Vaishali and Sudhakar are said to be small players as they got only ₹10 lakh to ₹12 lakh commission for allegedly allowing to use their talc stones containers to smuggle heroin. A larger network of Afghan nationals is suspected to be behind the consignment, an officer said .
There are 800 to 900 mid- and high-level drugs traffickers and syndicates in Afghanistan, according to estimates by the United Nations. Kandahar is among the provinces, along with Helmand, Badghis, Uruzgan and Faryab, where the country’s major poppy cultivation takes place. Heroin is processed from poppy.
The potential opium production in Afghanistan in 2020 was estimated at 6,300 tonnes and the average opium yield was 28.0 kg per hectare, UN data suggest. The country produces over 85% of the world’s opium.
The total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan was estimated at 224,000 hectares in 2020, which represented an increase of 37%, or 61,000 hectares, compared with 2019.