KOCHI: In a major drug haul based on specific intelligence inputs, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, in association with the Indian Coast Guard, intercepted two fishing boats near Agatti off Lakshadweep and seized 218 kg of heroin worth Rs 1,526 crore in the international illicit market.
The boats, Prince and Little Jesus, registered in Tamil Nadu were seized on Wednesday and brought to the Coast Guard District Headquarters in Kochi for further investigation. As per preliminary information, there were 20 fish workers in the boats and they were natives of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The DRI had received intelligence inputs about transportation of a huge quantity of heroin to the Tamil Nadu coast by fishing boats and were maintaining a tight vigil for the past few months. The information was that Indian fishing boats will receive huge quantity of heroin in the Arabian Sea by the second or third week of May.
Accordingly, the DRI planned a joint operation in association with Indian Coast Guard codenamed Operation Khojbeen, which was launched on May 7. As part of the operation, Coast Guard ship Sujeet, with DRI officials on board, maintained a close watch near the Exclusive Economic Zone. After several days of continuous search and monitoring, two fishing boats named Prince and Little Jesus were noticed moving suspiciously towards the Indian coast. Both the Indian boats were intercepted by officers of the Coast Guard and DRI on May 18, off the coast of Lakshadweep.
On interrogation, the crew members confessed that they received a huge quantity of heroin on the high seas and concealed it in the chambers of the boats. After confirming the smuggling of heroin, both the boats were escorted to Kochi for further proceedings.
A thorough search of the boats was carried out at the Coast Guard District Headquarters in Kochi, and 218 packets, containing1 kg of heroin each, were confiscated. The seizure proceedings under the provisions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) are currently being undertaken by the DRI. Follow-up searches are being carried out at various locations and further investigation is in progress, the DRI said in a release.
The seized drug appears to be of high-grade heroin and its value in the international illicit market is estimated to be around Rs 1,526 crore. The authorities refused to reveal more details about the seizure. There are indications that the drug was being shipped from Pakistan.
This is the fourth major drug bust by the DRI in the past one month. Earlier, the DRI had recovered 205.6 kg of heroin from a commercial import consignment of gypsum powder at the Kandla port on April 20. Another consignment of 396 kg of yarn (laced with heroin) was seized at Pipavav port on April 29. The DRI had also seized 62 kg of heroin at the Air Cargo Complex in the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on May 10. The collective value of the drug seized is approximately Rs 2,500 crore in the international illicit market.
Since April 2021, the DRI has seized more than 3,800 kg of heroin valued at approximately Rs 26,000 crore in the international illicit market. In addition, more than 350 kg of cocaine valued at approximately Rs 3,500 crore was seized by the DRI during this period, including the largest haul of 303 kg from a container at Tuticorin port in April 2021.
The ICG on the other hand has recovered about three tons of narcotics worth approximately Rs 6,200 crore in different operations in the past three years bringing the total drug haul till date to Rs 12,206 crore.