Ahemadabad: A coast guard investigation into a massive 1,500-kg heroin haul off Gujarat coast last week points to the involvement of Pakistani nationals in sending the shipment from the Chinese-controlled Gwadar port in Balochistan.
Sources said authorities are also trying to ascertain if the consignment seized in the country’s largest-ever drugs catch was part of a terror network and the money earned could have been used to fuel anti-India operations in the region.
“Preliminary investigations suggest that narcotics were embarked off Gwadar (port in Pakistan) in about three boats. From there it proceeded to Abu Dhabi wherein extensive work was carried out in the engine room and the fittings to conceal the narcotics,” Coast Guard’s inspector general of operations S Parmesh told Mail Today.
The Gwadar port in Pakistan has been built recently by the Chinese and is controlled and operated by Beijing for both military and merchant seafaring.
Senior government sources said interrogation of the eight Indian crew members of the ship ‘Hennry’ apprehended with the Rs 3,500-crore drugs revealed that a Pakistani national, Khalid Mohammed, and an Iranian called Mustafa had helped load the narcotics in Abu Dhabi.
“Welders and cutters were provided to the crew to modify the cabins and conceal the drugs in such a way that even if the ship was checked, it would have become difficult for the agencies to find it,” the sources said. Knowing about the risk involved in travelling with the ship, the two kingpins disembarked in Abu Dhabi before the ship set sail towards Indian waters, headed to Alang.
Experts say Pakistan’s drug smuggling network is inextricably linked with other illegal operations, including terrorism. India has sought to prevent the trafficking of narcotics into the country, alongside a larger push to improve coastal security following the 2008 Mumbai terror strike that saw the attackers sneak in through the sea route.
The origin of the heroin consignment is believed to be in Afghanistan from where it was brought to Gwadar.
“From Alang, the 1,526 packets of heroin could have reached different parts of India and to Southeast Asian countries as well,” the sources said.
The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) also played a key role in the operation as its sleuths picked up the calls between the crew of the ship and their handlers before tipping off the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard, which takes care of the western waters, carried out an extensive operation by deploying several ships and Dornier surveillance aircraft to track the suspect vessel.
After an extensive search, Coast Guard Ship Samudra Pavak had intercepted and apprehended the Panama-registered vessel off the coast of Gujarat, official sources said Sunday.
Intelligence inputs received on July 17 indicated the presence of an Iranian cargo vessel Prince-II about 210 miles west of Porbandar, which is not inside Indian waters. The vessel was expected to make a landing between Jamnagar and Bhavnagar on the Saurashtra coast.
Thereafter, Indian Coast Guard centres at Mumbai, Gandhinagar and Porbandar were activated, ICG ships alerted and Dornier aircraft sorties undertaken to track down the vessel. Air surveillance narrowed down on two inbound cargo vessels, which were intercepted and detained on July 26 for investigation at Okha port.
In the meantime, a Dornier aircraft sanitising the area near Gulf of Khambhat picked up another vessel that was not recognised on the Automatic Identification System and was marked suspicious. ICGS Samudra Pavak was diverted to intercept the vessel Henry.
When quizzed, the master of the ship said the vessel had no documents as it was headed to the Alang ship-breaking yard in Bhavnagar to be broken. The vessel was subsequently detained and was tugged to the Porbandar port on Sunday where the authorities during inspection found the vessel to be carrying 1,500 kg of heroin.