THE FOUR PERSONS arrested near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport on Wednesday, for alleged possession of 100 kg opioid Fentanyl, were in a rush to ship it to their cartel bosses in Mexico, knowing the Rs 1,000 crore worth consignment would be useless if it reached after December 31. “The movement of large quantities of drugs takes place between December 15 and 31. Once the New Year begins, the contraband’s value reduces drastically. In this period, we keep a special watch on drug trafficking,” said a senior Mumbai police official.
Police has identified heart patient Salim Dola (52) as a key figure in the Fentanyl seizure. Dola’s plan was to send the containers to Mexico through cargo at the Mumbai airport, said police. “He would have falsely declared the contraband as either salt or some cooking agent, relying on his contacts in the Air Cargo Complex not to physically inspect his consignment,” added the official.
After inspector Santosh Bhalekar received a tip-off, the Azad Maidan Unit of the Anti Narcotics Cell (ANC) laid in wait at the Western Express Highway in Vakola, Santacruz east on Wednesday evening. At 7.30 pm, officials spotted a man arrive on a Honda Activa scooter. He stopped below a Banyan tree on the service road outside a marble shop. Forty minutes later, a silver Tata Nexon car halted next to him and three men unloaded four blue-coloured metal drums.
Police inquired the men and found 25 kg Fentanyl, packed in plastic pouches in each drum.
The drug had been manufactured in Gujarat, stored by the accused in a godown in Bhiwandi and brought to Mumbai, to be transported abroad on Wednesday, claimed police. “The accused were to send the consignment to Mexico through agents. We are investigating where they procured the drugs from and will contact Mexico authorities to find who the recipients were to be,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police, ANC, Shivdeep Lande.
“Dola is aware of the loopholes in the NDPS Act and manages to secure bail each time he is caught. For the last two decades he has been involved in the trafficking of high-priced drugs from India to international markets. He underwent a bypass surgery few years ago and has a large scar on his chest. Each time he is arrested and taken into custody for interrogation, he opens up his shirt to show his scar and tells the police not to hit him or else he could die,” said the official.
Police is now probing Dola’s links in Mexico, with the arrest coming just two months after the DRI picked up a Mexican national. The police has pegged this as the biggest ever seizure of the opioid in India. A white crystalline substance, Fentanyl is the most abused prescription drug in the USA, accounting for over 20,000 American deaths in 2016, say reports.
“Fentanyl can cause death when consumed in even the smallest quantity. It is prescribed as a painkiller and an anesthetic but used for recreational purposes along with cocaine and heroin to increase the potency of the drugs. It is 50 times more powerful than heroin,” explained Lande.
The Mumbai police’s valuation of the seized contraband is based on a seizure made by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in October. Three men, including a Mexican national, were arrested in Indore, Madhya Pradesh for possession of 10 kg Fentanyl worth Rs 10 crore.
Of the arrested men, Nallasopara-based Sandeep Tiwari (38), worker at a plastics manufacturing firm, and 41-year-old Kandivali resident Chandramani Tiwari, who runs a mobile shop, are neighbours in a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur district, police said.
As per ANC officials, in 2016, Sandeep was released from Arthur Road Jail following his arrest in a cheating case when Chadramani stood as a personal surety for him. “Sandeep is a chemistry graduate and Chandramani deals in the supply of chemicals. We are tracing their links to the manufacturing centre in Gujarat,” added an
The fourth man, Ghanshyam Saroj (43) of Nallasopara, was hired to drive the duo to Vakola to meet Dola, added the official.