Heroin-soaked wires worth Rs 450 crore seized in Gujarat, container was from Iran

In a joint operation, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) recovered nearly 90 kilograms of heroin worth ₹450 crore from a shipping container that arrived at the port of Pipavav in Amreli district from Iran, the state DGP announced on Friday.

To dodge authorities, the drug syndicate had applied a unique modus operandi in which wires were dipped in a solution containing heroin, which were then dried, turned into balls and packed in bags for export, a Gujarat Police Director General Ashish Bhatia said.

“The container, containing large bags of yarn, arrived at the port of Pipavav from Iran almost five months ago. A forensic analysis of four suspect bags containing yarn weighing nearly 395 kg revealed that the threads contained an opiate derivative or heroin.In all, we found nearly 90 kg of heroin worth ₹450 crore from these threads,” Bhatia told reporters in Gandhinagar.

Acting on intelligence jointly developed by DRI and ATS Gujarat, a container was examined by DRI at Pipavav Port, Gujarat, in the presence of officers from ATS, Gujarat. The container with a gross weight of 9,760 kg was declared to contain “thread”. During a detailed examination on April 28, out of 100 giant bags, four suspect bags with a total weight of 395 kg, containing threads, showed the presence of heroin during field tests carried out by the regional laboratory of the forensic science.

It emerged that the drug syndicate used this unique modus operandi in which wires were dipped in a solution containing heroin which was then dried, baled and packed in bags. These bags were shipped together with other bags containing bales of normal yarn so that they would not be noticed by the authorities. The modus operandi in this case would have required extracting the heroin mixed with the threads. Examination and seizure proceedings by DRI under the provisions of the NDPS Act of 1985 are continuing.

The year 2021 was marked by significant seizures of drugs like heroin, cocaine, hashish and mind-altering substances and precursors like methamphetamine and pseudoephedrine by the DRI. Over 3,300 kg of heroin, 320 kg of cocaine and 230 kg of hashish were seized between January and December 2021. In addition, 170 kg of pseudoephedrine and 67 kg of methamphetamine were seized during this period.

Since January 2022, sustained efforts have yielded substantial results. In addition to record seizures of 3,000 kg of heroin from a shipment of talc in September 2021 at the port of Mundra and 205 kg of heroin from a shipment of gypsum in April 2022 at the port of Kandla, DRI in two cases, sequenced back to back in February and March 2022, seized heroin from cargo containers at the container depot in Tughlakabad, New Delhi. In the first case, 34.7 kg of heroin were seized in four containers declared to contain rock salt and in the second case, 2.4 kg of heroin were seized in the form of sediment from a shipment of juice pomegranate.

Syndicates have also tried to push narcotics like Yaba and heroin from the Indo-Burmese border and hashish from the Indo-Nepal border, into India through land borders. DRI agents have also intercepted such shipments from these borders, sometimes cleverly concealed inside vehicles. In one case, in February 2022, DRI seized a Lakh Yaba (methamphetamine) tablet and touched several seizures of heroin in northeast India, smuggled into India from Myanmar.

With the easing of restrictions and the opening up of international air travel after the lifting of restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of air passengers arriving in India has increased. Over the past two months, DRI has recorded several cases of heroin seized concealed in luggage and in the form of pills swallowed by body carriers. In one of these major cases, DRI seized 16 kg of heroin in March 2022 concealed in the luggage of three passengers, who arrived at Kolkata airport.

Multiple cases including seizure of 4.4 kg, 5.9 kg and 8.4 kg of heroin during three separate seizures in Ahmedabad, seizure of 2.2 kg, 1.7 kg and 2.25 kg of heroin under form of capsules ingested in three different seizures in New Delhi, seizure of 3.2 kg of heroin in Hyderabad and the seizure of 4 kg and 7.9 kg of heroin in two different cases in Chennai were affected by the DRI in the recent past. In the past two months, DRI has also recorded three cases involving the seizure of 3.7 kg of cocaine in the form of capsules ingested by passengers arriving in India. Apart from these, a number of cases have been recorded by airport customs based on specific information provided by the DRI, including the seizure of approximately 17.90 kg of heroin at the IGI airport on 10.04.2022 which was transported by a serving officer of the Kenyan administration.

Airline passengers have increasingly tried various ways and means to trick DRI officers, including thinly rolling heroin in their luggage, which is almost invisible to the naked eye. Ingenious methods of concealment such as the use of shampoos and foods to conceal the heroin have also been observed. The most difficult cases are those where air passengers are used as body carriers, who ingest contraband rolled pills, to smuggle them into India, which not only requires high level intelligence work to precisely identify these carriers, but in part due to the inherent risks to the life of the wearer.

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