BEHIND THE recent Rs 20,000 crore heroin seizure by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) from the Mundra Port, is a small team of officials of the Directorate General of Analytics and Risk Management at the National Customs Targeting Centre (NCTC) in Mumbai who analysed and crunched data for over a month to identify the two containers that were found to be carrying about 2,990 kg of heroin in the guise of talcum powder.
NCTC is the wing of Customs that is responsible for risk analysis and targeting of risky cargo and passengers crossing the borders. It uses machine learning and advanced analytics in indirect taxation to identify risky entities/ transactions.
On September 16, the DRI Ahmedabad seized heroin from two containers at Mundra Port, which were declared as containing talc powder or “semi-processed talc stones”, originating in Afghanistan and loaded at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port. The containers, sources said, were imported by Aashi Trading Company, registered in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada, from a firm called Hasan Husain Ltd. Nine persons have been arrested so far, including the proprietors of Aashi Trading.
According to sources, the NCTC team used several parameters such as the country of origin of imported goods, nature of goods, frequency of imports and registration details of the importer among others to identify the suspicious cargo.
“Among other things, what aroused suspicion was that a company from Vijayawada was using Mundra port to bring in goods instead of the nearest port at Visakhapatnam, and the goods were declared as talc stones originating from Afghanistan when it is known that the top two talc stones producers are China and Brazil,” said a source.
“In this case, after the NCTC officials identified the suspicious imports, it did an informal check on the importer and its registered office, a house at Satyanarayanapuram in Vijayawada. The visit to Aashi Trading’s office confirmed the doubts of the Customs and an officer of the NCTC flew to Ahmedabad to oversee the search and seizure of the containers by the DRI,” the official said.
Sources said the probe so far indicated that India could be a transit destination, and the heroin was to be shipped out in smaller batches, allegedly to European countries.
In July, the same team of NCTC had identified two containers at the Nhava Sheva Port in Mumbai declared as containing talc stones, following which the DRI seized 293 kg of heroin worth Rs 2,000 crore hidden in six gunny bags among other cargo in the containers. The DRI later arrested the importer, based in Tarn Taran, Punjab. The agency is also looking into the role of a politician in the case.
Since the beginning of the year, the NCTC has detected and helped in seizures of over 90 lakh smuggled cigarettes at Ludhiana and Mumbai; 2 kg of high grade marijuana in Delhi; and several trucks full of imported tyres and photocopy machines in Kolkata and Mundra respectively.