Narcotics smugglers transporting cannabis from Andhra Pradesh’s Araku area are resorting to new tricks to smuggle the contraband.
The latest ploy that has caught the eyes of law enforcement agencies is smugglers using ambulances to move their illicit substances.
On Friday, one such “ambulance” was being driven with its siren on along the Sabbavaram-Pendurthi stretch of the Chennai-Kolkata National Highway. However, officials of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), who had earlier received a specific tip-off, intercepted the vehicle near Pendurthi.
The DRI officers said the tip-off claimed narcotic drugs were being transported in vehicles that officials generally do not search, and thus they kept a watch on the highway and intercepted the “ambulance”.
Inside, they found hundreds of packets filled with cannabis, with the illicit substance totaling 1,813 kg.
“The narcotic drug was found packed in 361 brown coloured packets, weighing approximately 5 kgs each, in the ambulance. The contraband was brought from Araku area and destined for Raipur in Chhattisgarh. We have seized it under the provisions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985. The value of seized ganja in the grey market would be around Rs 2,71,95,000. There was only a driver who has been arrested,” an official said.
However, the vehicle itself was no ambulance – it was merely painted to resemble one, with no beds, paramedics or any medical equipment inside.
“We are investigating where the ambulance was supposed to drop the consignment and who was supposed to collect it,” an official said.
The seizure of the contraband has reaffirmed that the Araku area has become a major producer of cannabis. Officials say tribals have started cultivating cannabis on thousands of acres of land that is irrigated by the backwaters of the Balimela reservoir, close to the Odisha border.
But this is not the only time the smugglers have used such a ploy to deceive the agencies. A day before the a”ambulance” was seized, Narcotics Control Bureau officials of Hyderabad Unit seized 1,020 kg of cannabis from a coal-laden truck near Rajendranagar, on the outskirts of Hyderabad. The packets of ganja were concealed under 18 tonnes of coal powder. Officials said that the illicit drug originated at Araku and was destined for Zaheerabad, Telangana.