The story of Kabir Talwar: From clubbing tycoon to drug merchant
At a time when a Pakistan-backed syndicate was looking to push massive quantities of drugs stockpiled in Afghanistan during the Covid-19 pandemic, and amid uncertainty over Taliban’s takeover of the country, Delhi’s clubbing tycoon Harpeet Singh, alias Kabir Talwar, used the opportunity to smuggle drugs into India
At a time when a Pakistan-backed syndicate was looking to push massive quantities of drugs stockpiled in Afghanistan during the Covid-19 pandemic, and amid uncertainty over Taliban’s takeover of the country, Delhi’s clubbing tycoon Harpeet Singh, alias Kabir Talwar, used the opportunity to smuggle drugs into India as he saw “low risk and high returns in the illegal business”, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has revealed in a charge sheet filed last month in the 2021 Mundra port drug bust.
Now in prison, Singh was handsomely compensated for facilitating the smuggling of “hundreds of kilogrammes of heroin” through ports – the proceeds of which were meant for terror activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen, it said.
The federal anti-terror probe agency has elaborated in its charge sheet, the methods used Singh to smuggle the contraband through Indian ports. Behind his legal businesses, the 43-year-old serial entrepreneur has been found involved in conspiracies in all kinds of murky, illegal and criminal activities, the agency claimed.
“His journey into the criminal world started with small illegalities, including tax evasion, customs duty evasion. However, soon enough, he got involved in smuggling of prohibited goods into India,” according to details of the charge sheet and investigation reports of the NIA, which have been reviewed by HT.
Singh was earlier arrested by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in March 2022 in a case regarding the smuggling of 2,160,000 sticks of Gudang Garam cigarettes from Nhava Sheva port in Maharashtra. He remained in prison for a few weeks before released on bail.
“He resorted to bribing officials and used loopholes in the systems established at the ports for successfully carrying out his smuggling business,” which emboldened him, NIA claimed.
Singh often travelled to Dubai on business. During the pandemic, he became acquainted with Vityesh Koser, alias Raju Dubai, a prominent smuggler based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) known for getting illegal trade consignments cleared at Indian ports.
“This is the time when an Afghanistan-based cartel was looking to push in large quantities of heroin that had piled up there during the pandemic due to the suspension of international shipping routes. The uncertainty following the Taliban takeover and with their stated stand of discouraging heroin trade, there was a sense of urgency in pushing in large quantities of heroin into India in a short time,” according to the NIA charge sheet.
HT has accessed the details of the charge sheet, filed on February 20, in which Singh has been named as a key player in the international drugs smuggling syndicate essentially run by Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Raju Dubai was in touch with Kandahar-based cartel leaders Hassan Dad and his brother Hussain Dad, both allegedly working for ISI to send heroin into India from Afghanistan via Iran’s Bandar Abbas port.
“Kabir Talwar [Singh] was happy to oblige as he saw low risk and high returns in the business,” NIA said.
After his meeting with Raju Dubai, Singh returned to India and set-up a firm – Magent India – in his driver Prince Sharma’s name. Sharma was arrested along with Singh on August 25.
Once the firm was opened, Raju Dubai used his henchmen in India, who met Singh to complete formalities for the proposed heroin import. Similarly, about a dozen such shell companies were opened by him in the names of “poor and unsuspecting individuals known to him”.
As part of the conspiracy, NIA said, heroin was to be brought to India in the guise of semi-processed talc stone – a naturally occurring mineral used in cosmetics and personal care products. After it was loaded in containers in Afghanistan, the clearance was managed by Iranian operatives at the Iran- Afghanistan border. It was loaded at the Bandar Abbas Port with Indian ports as the destination.
The first of such consignments was sent by the cartel at Kolkata port in November 2020 through a company called Jesus Christ Impex, which was dispatched to Magent India in New Delhi. Another consignment came in December 2020 in the name of Magent India and was sold to Prabh International.
“Interestingly, this company is registered in the name of Shally Talwar, Singh’s wife,” NIA added. Both these consignments were unloaded at Neb Sarai in Delhi by Afghan nationals, all of whom have been arrested since 2021.
Asserting that the talc consignments were sold only on paper, NIA has said the “heroin was carefully separated from talc by Afghani experts in the warehouses and was taken in small goods vehicles multiple times for its further processing and sale in Indian.”
“It is estimated that hundreds of kilos of heroin have been sold via these deliveries,” it said.
Singh never remitted any money for the semi-processed talc his firm ordered, received and sold, the agency said. He had no clue where the semi-processed talc had gone after its import, it further said.
For his services, Singh was “duly compensated” by Raju Dubai in kind by sending him free consignments of different goods from the UAE and also through hawala channels, the charge sheet said. From the money he received, Singh was maintaining an extravagant lifestyle.
Before entering the smuggling business, Singh was a successful businessman in Delhi. Having started import of leatherette from Taiwan and Thailand in 2007 through HS Impex Pvt Ltd, he soon ventured into other businesses such as trading in luxury items, jewellery and real estate, opening retail footwear showrooms and pubs.
Singh is termed as the numero uno in Delhi’s clubbing industry, as he opened the Playboy Club (now known as The White Club) in 2017 at Samrat Hotel in Delhi, besides other club lounges called Jazbaa and RSVP under the banner of a company called Fit Fresh Food (India) Pvt Ltd. His Instagram profile claims he owned seven pubs in NCR and that Forbes magazine published a profile on him.
His pictures on social media also show he has a penchant for luxury cars like Ford Mustangs and Lamborghinis and was interested in networking with celebrities. There are pictures of him with celebrities such as actor Shah Rukh Khan, singers Sidhu Moosewala and Harrdy Sandhu on social media.
The Mundra consignment of 2,988 kg of Afghan heroin worth ₹21,000 crore hidden in semi-processed talc was intercepted and seized at the port in Gujarat by DRI on September 13, 2021. HT had exclusively reported about the consignment at that time.
NIA filed its first charge sheet in the Mundra case on March 14, 2022, against 16 cartel members, including Afghan nationals, Iranians and several Indians; and a second charge sheet against nine suspects on August 29 last year.
On Pakistan’s link, the agency’s charge sheet states: “It has been revealed that narcotic smugglers enjoy the patronage of security agencies of Pakistan and Afghanistan and smuggled the drugs through sea route up to Indian ports via Iran. Thereafter, these consignments are transported through roads to inner parts of India.”
This international conspiracy, it said, was not merely for one consignment, but for the series of consignments imported from Afghanistan to India with prior intention for huge illegal monetary gain to fund terrorist activities and circulation and consumption of narcotics among the youths of India, thereby impacting the health of the nation.
HT reached out to Singh’s family for comments on the allegations against him. His brother Baneet Talwar refused to comment on the matter.
A former business partner of Singh, who did not want to be identified, said he was shocked when he heard charges that Singh was involved with terrorists. “He (Singh) never came across as someone who is involved in illegal activities but if the NIA is saying that he worked with international drug smugglers, it might have evidence,” the person said. “I don’t know what else to say.”
The Mundra case led to an alarm in India’s maritime security apparatus. Union home minister Amit Shah is personally monitoring the upgradation of security at ports and has held series of meetings since 2021 while directing intelligence and investigation agencies to dismantle the entire drugs smuggling network at ports.