West Bengal Forest Department Saturday arrested six persons near Siliguri and seized a consignment reportedly of “Cobra venom” valued over Rs 100 crore in international markets.
The consignment, weighing around nine pounds and kept in three bullet-proof Belgium glass containers, was reportedly on its way to Bhutan and was suspected to have arrived from either Nepal or Bangladesh through clandestine routes.
The accused smugglers said the seized substance was “cobra venom”, said Baikunthapur Divisional Forest Officer, P R Pradhan, and added that the consignment will have to be chemically checked and verified because it looks “highly sophisticated”.
The smugglers reportedly told the officials that the consignment had originally come from France and their job was to deliver the three glass containers — with the “venom” in liquid, semi-liquid and crystal granules forms — to some place in Bhutan.
Pradhan said the Forest Range Officer had prior information over the group’s activity.
The initial tip-off that the forest officials had received mentioned six glass jars being smuggled out but only three could be intercepted, he said, and added that the remaining three may have already reached the intended destination.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (WildLife) Azam Zaidi said: “It’s a highly unusual and rare kind of consignment that forest officials have seized. Even if it is for medicinal purpose, such a huge quantity needs to be probed thoroughly,” he said.
He said that samples of the seized substance are being sent to the Wildlife Institute and to several other agencies for verification of its use and the exact nature of its utility.
The DFO said the six arrested were all locals from in and around Siliguri, Jalpaiguri and Kalchani, bordering Bhutan. Forest officials said that similar “Red Dragon Cobra’ consignment was reportedly seized in Bangladesh in 2014 but the incident did not undergo thorough probe.
In Baikunthapur, too, some small quantity of a similar consignment was seized in 2014, said Zaidi, and added that previous records will be looked into.
Of the six arrested, one claimed to be a local journalist and had a local press club card on him.