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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Explained: Heroin seizures from Arabian Sea as Afghanistan fell to Taliban

3,000 kg heroin was recently seized from Mundra port in a shipment originating from Kandahar. Such seizures from vessels in the Arabian Sea have risen in the months leading to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and since.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: October 1, 2021 12:07:32 pm
US Army soldiers walk through a poppy field near Zangabad village, Afghanistan in 2009. (NYT/Archive)

3,000 kg heroin was recently seized from Mundra port in a shipment originating from Kandahar. Such seizures from vessels in the Arabian Sea have risen in the months leading to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and since. Take a look:

1. Delhi & Noida

January 24: 8 kg heroin worth Rs 68 crore seized by Customs at IGI Airport; two Ugandan nationals arrested

May 9: 125 kg heroin seized allegedly from an Afghan couple living in Delhi

September 28: In connection with Mundra seizure investigations, 16.1 kg heroin from a godown in Delhi, 11 kg of a substance suspected to be heroin and 10.2 kg of powder suspected to be cocaine, from a house in Noida

2. Off Kerala coast

March 20 & April 19: 300 kg heroin seized by NCB from a Sri Lanka fishing boat, followed by seizure of 340 kg of heroin hidden in another Sri Lankan fishing boat; both consignments believed to have been received from a larger, Iranian vessel

3. Off Oman coast

April 23 & 24: A Canadian warship, part of a Combined Maritime Forces coalition, seizes 1,286 kg heroin, and 360 kg methamphetamine from two fishing boats; valued at $23 million.

4. Chennai

May 7: 15.6 kg heroin seized at Chennai International Airport from two Tanzanians nationals

5. Navi Mumbai

July 1: 300 kg of heroin seized from two containers at Nhava Sheva Port in Navi Mumbai; containers believed to have originated from Iran, and imported to India from Afghanistan; seizure valued at Rs 2000 crore

6. Off Sri Lanka coast

August 30- September 10: Sri Lanka Navy intercepts three fishing vessels carrying heroin worth SLRs 7 bn.

7. Gujarat

September 11: In Mundra, 3,000 kg heroin seized from two containers in a consignment of talc stones originating from Kandahar and shipped out of Bandar Abbas port in Iran.

September 18: Off Porbandar coast, a fishing boat seized with 30 kg of heroin; it had set off from Konarak port in Iran.

Heroin, Afghanistan and Taliban 

Covid and seizures 

Lockdowns including on global air and maritime traffic resulted in fewer seizures in 2020 than in 2019 (see graph based on USODC report), and smaller sized individual seizures. But poppy cultivation, harvest and heroin manufacture remained unaffected by the pandemic.

Bigger shipments 

In 2021, the number of seizures and their size has increased, especially since April. The regularity of bigger consignments may reflect the effect of uncertainties in Afghanistan from the time US President Joe Biden announced the departure of troops by August 31.

Taliban control

Poppy cultivation is controlled by the Taliban and was one of their main sources of revenue when fighting the Americans. Recent seizures may indicate syndicates are trying to clear out large quantities. It remains unclear what place poppy cultivation will have in the Taliban regime.

The seizure in Mundra 

What we know

  • The official importers of the 40,940-kg “semi processed talc stones” consignment in two containers, in which the heroin was hidden, were Machavaram Sudhakar and his wife Vaisali who run Aashi Trading company, Vijayawada,which operated under Import Export Code AOTPG6030R, registered with the DGFT under the Ministry of Commerce. The couple are being questioned; nine people have been arrested.
  • DRI says the couple imported a similar consignment in June from the same supplier, Hasan Husain in Afghanistan; it was sent to one Kuldeep Singh in Delhi by Customs.
  • Both consignments came to Mundra, the country’s largest commercial port, which, as well as the attached SEZ, is run by the Adani Group. The Adani Group has said it had no role in examining the containers that came to the port.

What we don’t

  • Where was the consignment of nearly 3,000 kg of heroin headed?
  • Why was the container from Bandar Abbas offloaded at Mundra when the importing company is in Andhra, which has four ports?
  • Did port operator APSEZ have a role? The Special NDPS court in Bhuj has sought an investigation into whether Adani gained from this import.
  • Did the June consignment of ‘semi-processed talc stones’ also contain contraband?

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