Updated: September 23, 2021 8:14:01 am
Investigations have shown that the Andhra firm registered as the official recipient of the two containers in which 2,988 kg of heroin, valued at some Rs 21,000 crore, was found hidden at Mundra Port in Kutch by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), had imported a similar consignment from the same Afghanistan company in June this year.
That consignment too was sent by M/S Hasan Husain Ltd and declared as containing ‘semi-processed talc stones’. The invoice was in the name of one Kuldip Singh, from Alipur, Delhi.
The DRI has in its custody Chennai-based Machavaram Sudhakar and his wife Govindaraju Durga Purna Vaisali. Vaisali is the proprietor of the firm M/s Aashi Trading Company, registered in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada.
The DRI said Wednesday that eight arrests had been made so far, including four Afghans and an Uzbek national. It also claimed that the total seizure was now up to 3,004 kg, with additional drugs (suspected to be heroin and cocaine) recovered from a house in Noida.
Apart from Noida, the DRI also conducted follow-up investigations in New Delhi, Chennai, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad, Mandvi, Gandhidham and Vijayawada. Officials from foreign investigative agencies are expected to come to India to join the probe, sources said.
The DRI said the consignment was sourced from Kandahar in Afghanistan through Bandar Abbas port in Iran, and suspects the accused to be part of a “larger conspiracy”. Sources said Sudhakar has told the DRI that the firm was started in August last year and that the consignment was sourced from Hasan Husain Ltd in Afghanistan, through their local representative “Amit”.
According to sources, the DRI told a court in Bhuj that the consignment was of Afghan origin and that the accused were in touch with “Afghan and Irani nationals” and there was need to probe “probable threat perception involved”.
Earlier, on June 9, Aashi had imported a similar consignment of talc stones from Hasan Husain Ltd. The Indian Express has learnt that “the documents in original” regarding this were directly sent to a Customs House Agent in Gandhidham from Iran, since the vessel had already started sailing.
For the second consignment, Sudhakar allegedly received “two sets of import documents, containing invoice, packing list, certificate of origin”. Sudhakar has reportedly told the DRI that when he enquired with his contact in Iran, called “Javed”, from where the consignment had set sail, the latter had told him that “in the initial set of documents, the weight of the cargo as mentioned in the documents was 300 kg in excess (of) when it was actually weighed by the liner” and hence this was “rectified” and a second set of documents dispatched to his Chennai address.
Amit was the “marketing person” in India for Hasan Husain for both the consignments, as per Sudhakar. The accused has also said Amit would give instructions regarding whom the consignments were meant for.
Sudhakar has reportedly also said that for the June consignment, “Amit” had asked him to prepare an invoice in the name of “Shri Kuldeep Singh @ Alipur, Delhi”, and that the Customs House Agent concerned had delivered the consignment “directly from the port to the mentioned address”.
After the DRI had seized the second consignment several days ago, simultaneous searches were carried out across the country, including the Chennai residence of the accused, from where reportedly incriminating documents and materials were seized. The Indian Express has learnt that while the agency seized 1,999.579 kg of the contraband immediately, subsequent investigations had led it to 988.631 kg more.
The heroin, according to the DRI, was concealed with talc powder in two 40-feet containers, for which the Bill of Entry dated September 11 was filed on behalf of Aashi at Mundra Customs, describing the imported goods as 40.940 MT of ‘semi processed talc stones’. The origin of the consignment was shown as Afghanistan, and it was loaded at Bandar Abbas in Iran.
Even as the DRI said that the three arrested Indian nationals include the holder of the Import Export Code (IEC), a check into the importing firm and its alleged founders draws a blank. The website of the Registrar of Companies does not show any company by the name Aashi registered with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. However, the company might be a sole proprietorship firm and details of such companies are not available on RoC website.
More such consignments of similar nature may have been diverted by now, two persons aware of the development said.
A senior DRI official said more details will be shared later. A senior Commerce Ministry official said, “We do not have information on the company on hand.”
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