ECONOMYNEXT – Indian authorities seized a Sri Lankan fishing vessel carrying 300kg of high grade heroin, five AK-47 rifles and 1,000 live rounds on March 18, off the coast of Vizhinjam in Kerala, Indian media reported.
According to the Times of India, the bust came close on the heels of another seizure of high grade heroin (200kg) and hashish (60kg) from a Sri Lankan boat early this month.
In a joint statement released to the media yesterday, the Indian Coast Guard and Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) said six Sri Lankan nationals aboard the boat were taken into custody. Named Ravihansi, the boat had been on its way to Sri Lanka when it was intercepted by the coast guard and the NCB near Minicoy Island based on specific intelligence, The News Minute reported today.
“A number of incriminating documents were also seized from the occupants of the vessel,” The News Minute quoted the NCB as saying. The heroin was found concealed inside the water tank of the vessel in 301 packets. The symbol of a flying horse was found on all the heroin packets, which is a usual practice of drug trafficking syndicates to brand their drugs, the bureau said.
The Times of India and other Indian media reports suggest the value of the heroin seized amounts to INR 3,000 core or USD 408 million in the international market. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the street price of 1gm of heroin in the UK in 2017 was USD 64 while wholesale price of a kilo was USD 32,134. This would place the 300kg apprehended aboard Ravihansi at the 2017 UK rates at USD 9.64 million total (wholesale).
According to the Times of India report, the coast guard ships and aircraft had been conducting extensive search in the area of Lakshadweep Islands. On March 18, patrolling coast guard units had detected three suspicious boats off Minicoy Islands and intercepted them. “Upon interrogation, the crew gave inconsistent statements. On rummaging the boats, the weapons and drugs were recovered from one of the boats. The value of the drugs has been roughly estimated at Rs 3,000 crore (USD 408 million) in the international market. All the three boats along with 19 crew have been taken to Vizhinjam for further joint investigation,” the report said.
“This is the second major antidrug trafficking operation undertaken by the coast guard on western coast within a fortnight. On March 5, the coast guard ships and aircraft, in a coordinated operation in Lakshadweep seas, had successfully apprehended Sri Lankan boat Akarsha Duwa with six crew off Minicoy Island. The crew had admitted to carrying 200kg high grade heroin and 60kg hashish which was jettisoned in the sea on sighting the coast guard ships on patrol,” the Times report further said.
The News Minute report noted that investigations so far indicate that an unknown vessel had carried the heroin and arms consignment from Chabahar Port, Iran and handed over the same to the Sri Lankan fishing boat Ravihansi in the high seas near Lakshadweep. Ravihansi then attempted to traffick the consignment to Sri Lanka when the Indian authorities intercepted it. The vessel was brought to Vizhinjam Harbour, following which the NCB Chennai Zonal Unit took custody of the boat. The NCB arrested all six Sri Lankan crew members – namely LY Nandana, HKGB Dassppriya, AHS Gunasekara, SA Senarath, T Ranasingha and D Nissanka -on March 27 and remanded them to judicial custody.
According to the NCB, said the report, the intelligence inputs and the investigations so far indicate that a Pakistan-based drug trafficking network is involved in the current seizure. There have been seizures of huge quantity heroin in the Arabian Sea, by both Indian as well as other enforcement agencies, which are believed to have been trafficked by the same network. “This seizure also unveils the nexus between narcotics trafficking and extremist elements,” the website quoted the NCB as saying. (Colombo/Mar31/2021)