Anti-Drug Investigations Across Agencies Have One Common Thread – Punjab

Recent drug-related investigations of agencies like the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Customs and other state agencies share one common link – Punjab.

In the last one week, these agencies have seized drugs estimated to be worth around Rs 2,500 crore from different parts of the country. During investigations, officials from anti-terror and anti-drug agencies found that big consignments were headed to Punjab through air, water and road routes.

The consignments reportedly originated from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan and entered India via the borders at Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab, with Punjab being the destination.

The biggest consignment seized so far this year was busted by the DRI and the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), wherein heroin worth Rs 1,400 crore was caught. According to the DRI, the consignment arrived at Gujarat’s Kandla Port from Bander Abbas port in Iran. The consignment, imported in 17 containers (10,318 bags), has a gross weight of 394 metric tonnes and was declared as “gypsum powder”.

So far, 205.6 kg of heroin, valued at Rs 1,439 crore in the illicit market, has been recovered. “During investigation, the importer was not found at the registered address in Uttarakhand. The importer was changing locations and hiding to evade identification. However, persistent and vigorous efforts yielded results and the importer was located in a small village in Punjab. The importer tried to resist and flee, but he was nabbed by the DRI officers,” the DRI said.

The consignment was supposed to reach Punjab and the address in Uttarakhand was mentioned to mislead the officials, sources said.

Similarly, in another big seizure, the Customs department in Punjab this week caught 102-kg heroin consignment worth Rs 700 crore. According to the Custom department, more than 100 kg of heroin was packed and concealed in a consignment of ‘mulethi’ (liquorice) coming from Afghanistan by road. It entered India via the Attari border in Punjab, and was recovered from cavities carved out in wooden logs.

The NCB on Thursday said 50 kg high-quality heroin, 47 kg suspected narcotics, Rs 30 lakh cash was seized from a residential premises in Jamia Nagar, Shaheen Bagh, Delhi.

The consignment, which originated from Afghanistan, also has a Punjab angle.

“The syndicate was found to be connected with drug traffickers of the entire north region, including states like Punjab, Haryana, UP, Uttarakhand and Delhi. Further investigation is on,” DDG Sanjay Singh said.

The officer further said that these syndicates have been smuggling goods to India through maritime as well as land border routes, and that the heroin was smuggled hidden within consignments of legitimate goods.

The NIA investigation into the seizure of 3,000 kg heroin worth Rs 21,000 crore caught from the Mundra Port last year has also moved to Punjab. According to sources, after filing the chargesheet against 16 accused, the NIA is now focusing on Punjab, claiming that further investigation could reveal the involvement of “big fish” from the state.

The BSF, which guards the India-Pakistan and India-Bangladesh borders, seized narcotic substances worth Rs 949 crores till March 31. Majority of the drugs have been seized from the Punjab border, a BSF official said. The force in the past has caught drugs consignments sent via drones along with small arms.

In another major breakthrough, the Jammu and Kashmir Anti-Narcotics Task Force (ANTF) has arrested the “most wanted” drug dealer during a series of raids in neighbouring Punjab. The task force has also arrested the ‘most wanted’ accused allegedly involved in smuggling of drugs from Pakistan to Punjab.

Senior officials in the NCB said big players in drug smuggling are operating from different parts of the country but have a base and big market in Punjab. Some are said to be operating from within Punjab’s jails.

“In previous cases, as well as in the recent case, it has been found that Punjab has a link. The reason behind this link is that big players who are getting money through hawala are operating from Punjab even from the jail. All agencies have found links in Punjab and investigations move towards the state. It is not new but drug dealers have established global links for supply of expensive drugs to India,” a senior NCB official said.

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