Rs 98 crore heroin seized at Delhi airport: Smugglers exploring new routes

Heroin is trafficked from Afghanistan and Pakistan to African countries, and from there, it is smuggled into India by air

Rs 98 crore heroin seized at Delhi airport: Smugglers exploring new routes
Heroin seized at the Delhi airport from two Zambian passengers. Image courtesy: Customs

Two Zambian passengers who arrived at terminal three (T3) of the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in Delhi from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa via Doha this week on Qatar Airways Flight QR1366 and Flight QR578 respectively were intercepted by customs officials after they crossed the green channel and were approaching the exit gate. 

On the basis of profiling of sensitive routes and origins, they were asked whether they were carrying any contraband goods, to which they replied in the negative. 

To verify their statements, they were subjected to Door Frame Metal Detector (DFMD) examination in which nothing objectionable was noticed. Their baggage was scanned through the X-ray baggage inspection machine in which some suspicious/objectionable images were noticed. 

Heroin seized at the Delhi airport. Image courtesy: Customs

On detailed examination of their baggage before two independent witnesses, two bags containing white powder/granules and weighing 7 kg each were recovered. The powder/granules were concealed in specially-made cavities of their checked-in baggage. 

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Representative samples of the recovered substance were subjected to a modified drug detection kit which prima facie confirmed the recovered substances to be heroin. 

The value of the recovered substance, suspected to be heroin, was estimated to be Rs 98 crore.  

Baggage that contained the heroin. Image courtesy: Customs 

During interrogation, the two passengers confessed to their crime. A panchnama and subsequently a seizure memo were drawn on the spot. 

The recovered goods and concealing and packing materials were seized under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.

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Both the passengers were arrested and further investigation is underway.

The seized heroin being weighed. Image courtesy: Customs

A worrying aspect of drug smuggling into India was highlighted by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) after two people, also from Zambia, were nabbed at the IGI Airport towards the end of last year, carrying over 5 kg of heroin, valued at around Rs 22 crore in the international market, PTI reported. 

The arrest of the two Zambian nationals on December 25 and December 31 respectively revealed that new and reverse routes for smuggling heroin into India were being exploited by traffickers, NCB Deputy Director (Operations) KPS Malhotra said at that time. 

The heroin was hidden in specially-made cavities of the checked-in baggage. Image courtesy: Customs

The normal route for smuggling heroin into India is through the Pakistan border and in some cases, through the eastern frontiers. However, following increased vigil by the security forces along the western and eastern frontiers has compelled smugglers to look for new routes.

The reverse route is related to heroin being smuggled into the country along "two different routes" after sourcing it from Afghanistan, which is "the main cultivator of opium and "producer" of heroin, according to Malhotra. 

The containers and the heroin are being weighed. Image courtesy: Customs

One of the routes involves heroin sourced from Afghanistan and Pakistan being shipped through sea cargo to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and from there, being trafficked into India. The other route is: heroin being trafficked from Afghanistan and Pakistan to African countries, and from there, smuggled into India by air with the help of couriers or passengers.

In the recent case, smugglers seem to have used the second reverse route to bring heroin into the country.