Kochi: The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Sunday revealed that the crew, who were caught smuggling heroin worth Rs 1,526 crore in two boats off the coast of Lakshadweep, had links to Pakistan.
According to DRI officials, the accused are part of a drug racket that smuggles narcotics from Pakistan into India. The heroin was being brought in using the address of a sugar mill in Pakistan. The DRI also confirmed that two Thiruvananthapuram natives were part of the gang.
The accused are being questioned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Authorities are yet to ascertain for whom the heroin was being moved and whether they have further links to international drug rackets. For now, the DRI is sticking to their initial claim that the drugs were being smuggled into India.
The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the DRI on May 18 had jointly seized 218 kg of heroin which was being smuggled in from Afghanistan through the sea route.
The team intercepted two Indian boats that were moving from the coast of Agatti Island in Lakshadweep under suspicious circumstances. There were 20 workers on the boats.
On watch for months
The DRI had released a statement later in the day stating an operation was launched by the DRI after it received special intelligence over a period of several months that two Indian boats would be sailing from the coast of Tamil Nadu to stock up on large quantities of narcotics somewhere in the Arabian Sea during the second or third week of May.
Based on these inputs, a joint operation of the DRI with ICG codenamed 'Operation Khojbeen' was launched on May 7 and under the operation, ICG ship Sujeet, with DRI officials onboard, maintained a close watch near the the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), it stated.
After several days of continuous search and monitoring amid very rough seas, two suspected boats 'Prince' and 'Little Jesus' were noticed moving towards India. Both the Indian boats were intercepted by officers of ICG and DRI on May 18 off the coast of Lakshadweep Islands, the statement said.
The heroin was brought to the Coast Guard headquarters in Kochi.
Since April 2021, the DRI has seized 3,800 kg of narcotics drugs worth Rs 26,000 crore and the Coast Guard has seized three tonnes of narcotics worth Rs 6,200 crore in the last three years.