India Seizes $2.7 Billion of Afghan Heroin Imported via Iran

**FILE** A Taliban militant is seen with an AK- 47 rifle gun, right, as farmers collect resin from poppies in an opium poppy field in Naway district of Helmand province, southwest Afghanistan in a Friday, April 25, 2008 file photo. Drought and anti-drug campaigns helped slash Afghanistan's opium poppy cultivation …
AP Photo, File

India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized nearly three tons of heroin originating from Afghanistan worth an estimated $2.72 billion on September 15 at Mundra Port in western India’s Gujarat state, Gujarat Special Public Prosecutor Kalpesh Goswami confirmed to Indian media on Tuesday.

DRI, India’s top anti-smuggling agency, said it received intelligence that two shipping containers recently arrived at Mundra Port concealed heroin and detained the shipments accordingly.

“Intelligence indicated that these drugs originated from Afghanistan. Accordingly, officers of DRI detained the consignment (two containers, 40 tonnes) for examination under the provisions of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic substance [NDPS] Act,” unnamed DRI officials said on September 17, as quoted by India Today on September 21.

“During the examination, the forensic experts confirmed the presence of heroin. Accordingly, 1999.579 kg recovered from the first container and 988.64 kg recovered from the second container, totaling 2988.219 kg were seized under the provisions of the NDPS Act,” the DRI officials detailed.

An ongoing investigation by DRI has so far determined that “the heroin was imported as semi-processed Talc stones originating from Afghanistan by a Vijayawada-based Aashi Trading Company,” according to India Today. Vijayawada is a city in the southeastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

DRI officials further traced the consignment of heroin and found that it “was shipped from Iran’s Bandar Abbas Port to Mundra Port, Gujarat,” the Indian online magazine reported.

Vijayawada police commissioner B. Sreenivasulu told the Times of India on September 21 the heroin’s final destination was Delhi, the Indian national capital territory, and not Vijayawada. He said Vijayawada’s link to the illicit consignment was limited to the city’s Aashi Trading Company, which he described as a shell company.

“The heroin in the guise of talcum powder was intended to reach Delhi, not Vijayawada. So far, we have found no proof of any Vijayawada connection in the whole thing except the importing company’s address. We are in coordinating with the DRI and investigating the case from all angles [sic],” Sreenivasulu said.

The police commissioner added that “Aashi Trading seems to have been used as a shell company to obtain import and export license for illegal smuggling.”

“Barring the name and GST [Goods and Services Tax] registration number of the firm, which was found to be typed on an A4 sheet paper and pasted on the wall of the house, there’s nothing in the vicinity to suggest that a company exists there,” Sreenivasulu said.

India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) — a special law enforcement and economic intelligence agency — is reportedly seeking details from the DRI regarding the heroin seizure with the intention of opening an official case addressing the incident under India’s Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), India Today revealed on September 21.

DRI officials have so far arrested two people in connection with the heroin smuggling, Gujarat Special Public Prosecutor Kalpesh Goswami confirmed Tuesday. Goswami said the two people detained are a husband-and-wife duo. The wife, Govindaraju Durga Purna Vaishali, is the renter of a residential apartment in Vijayawada listed as Aashi Trading’s official address. Aashi Trading’s official phone number is registered to Machavaram Sudhakar, who is Vaishali’s husband.

“Sudhakar and Vaishali — were picked up in Chennai, produced before a special court in Gujarat last week, and sent to DRI custody for 10 days,” Goswami said on September 21, as quoted by NDTV.

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