Investigators say drug consignments received in international waters – The Hindu
The gang of Sri Lankan nationals operating out of the Special Camp in Tiruchi placed orders for huge quantities of heroin that was sourced from Afghanistan by their Pakistani agent and handed over to fishing boats in international waters, sources in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said on Wednesday.
The central agency arrested nine suspects on Monday from the Special Camp that houses foreign nationals, mostly Sri Lankans, facing criminal charges and shifted them to the Puzhal central prison here. The accused persons included C. Gunasekharan alias Guna alias Premkumar, and Pushparaj alias Pookutti Kanna who were alleged to be the kingpins of the international drug cartel.Mid-sea transactions
Making use of their close contact with Haji Salim, an alleged arms and drug supplier in Pakistan, the gang leaders ordered delivery of the heroin consignments at least twice a month. The modus operandi, according to the sources in the NIA, was to move the drugs to international waters close to Sri Lanka and then distribute the shipment in small quantities on fishing boats. While a majority of the drug consignment was for local consumption or further transhipment to countries in Europe or South America (in case of Cocaine), some quantity of the contraband was shipped to Tamil Nadu.
Acting on a specific tip-off, the NIA stormed the Special Camp with the back-up of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on July 20, 2022 and seized mobile phones and incriminating documents. The accused were booked under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. A month later, the Tiruchi city police conducted a search in the camp and seized 154 mobile phones, three laptops and a smartwatch from the inmates.
When the NIA officials arrived at the Tiruchi Special Camp on Monday to arrest the nine suspects, the sources alleged that they were denied permission to enter the premises for at least four hours. Police and Revenue officials told them that they were awaiting clearance at the appropriate level in order to permit them to enter the camp and arrest the Sri Lankan nationals. “Those few hours were good enough for the suspects to hide crucial evidence like mobile phones, laptops and documents. We will soon move the court to take custody of the suspects for interrogation,” a NIA officer said.Hawala channels
Asked if there was any proof of the NIA claims that the money raised through arms and drugs smuggling/sale was to raise funds for reviving the activities of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, the official said there was clear input on financial transactions via hawala channels to former LTTE cadre or sympathisers based in Sri Lanka, India, Europe and the United Kingdom.
“Some pressure groups who often held protests demanding the closure of the Special Camp and voiced in favour of the LTTE or Tamil Eelam were also funded by the gang,” an official who did not want to be quoted said.
The role of Sri Lankan nationals lodged in the Special Camp first came to light in the Vizhinjam drugs and arms trafficking case, where coastal security agencies seized 301 kg heroin, five AK 47 rifles and 1000 9-mm ammunition from six Sri Lankan nationals, who were found on vessel ‘Ravihansi’ off the Vizhinjam on March 25, 2021.
The search conducted in July 2022 in the Special Camp was in continuation of the investigation in the case, and based on specific inputs that the suspects lodged in the camp were continuing to operate by coordinating with drug smugglers based in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the sources said.
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