NCB arrests 2 Sri Lankans in Chennai in int’l drugs racket case
New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has arrested two Sri Lankan Tamils — who are key operatives in an international drugs racket — from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, a senior officer said on Friday.
On the basis of intelligence shared with the Sri Lankan authorities, they had seized 100 kg heroin on November 27 last year from the island nation, NCB Deputy Director KPS Malhotra told IANS. Sources said that the contraband was valued at Rs 1,000 crore.
The heroin smuggling syndicate was based out of Pakistan and Sri Lanka and its tentacles spread as far as Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, and Australia.
Malhotra said that arrested accused MMM Nawas and Mohamed Afnas were living in Chennai by concealing their identities but the agency managed to zero in on them.
The action comes as a follow-up to the seizure of a Sri Lankan fishing vessel ‘Shenaya Duwa’ by NCB and Indian Coast Guard in Indian territorial waters near Tuticorin Port on November 26, 2020, along with 95.87 kg heroin and 18.32 kg methamphetamine.
The NCB had also seized five pistols and magazines from the vessel’s crew. “Six Sri Lankans were arrested, who are now in judicial custody,” the NCB officer said.
The official said that the NCB was aware of the international links of the racket, especially in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. “Hence, we began to probe every available thread in the case and soon found that two key operatives in the racket were living in Chennai. The NCB subsequently rounded up Nawas and Afnas.”
The NCB officer claimed that Nawas and Afnas held important positions in the heroin syndicate and controlled operations related to mid-sea pick-up and delivery of narcotics from Pakistani and Iranian vessels.
He said that both had fled Sri Lanka as the authorities in the island nation were closing in on them. “There is an Interpol Red Corner Notice issued by the Sri Lankan government against Nawas,” the officer said.
Malhotra said that the ‘death triangle’ aka ‘Golden Crescent’ comprising Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan — where the world’s largest opium cultivation is done — has two important transit points for processed heroin — Sri Lanka and Maldives.
“Heroin from this region is usually loaded on to fishing vessels setting sail from the ports of Iran and Pakistan for mid-sea transfers to similar vessels of Sri Lanka and Maldives,” he said.
These mid-sea transfers occur in or very near the Indian territorial waters. “There is a big network of foreign entities controlling this lucrative trade. Reliable intelligence developed by the NCB and Indian agencies over a period of time indicates that Pakistani drug traffickers lodged in Sri Lankan prisons control this trade and source and deliver large quantities of heroin from the Golden Crescent to Sri Lankan and Maldivian entities,” the NCB officer said.