Saturday, Nov 16, 2002
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By K.T. Sangameswaran
A probe into four cases of heroin seizure, all in the city in the last three months, revealed that besides selecting a new route, smugglers are attempting to lift the drug in smaller quantities, so that the loss will not be enormous if they are recovered by the police, the Director of the Narcotics Control Bureau, Shankar Jiwal, told The Hindu.
On November 2, NCB personnel caught three persons, including a Sri Lankan Tamil, on Kennet Lane, Egmore, and seized 14.3 kg of heroin, kept in waterproof polythene packets. The seizure was effected when the islander was handing over the contraband to the other two, belonging to Rameswaram. Three days before the seizure, the gang had already smuggled seven kg of the drug to Sri Lanka.
Earlier on October 6, the personnel seized 12 kg of brown sugar from two Sri Lankans at the Saidapet mofussil bus stand. About 15 kg of heroin was seized from six persons, including three Sri Lankan Tamils, at Chennai Central on September 22. Three persons from Madhya Pradesh were handing over the contraband to the Sri Lankans, when the police swooped on them. Three others were arrested and 12.5 kg of the drug was seized at Parrys on September 5.
Contrary to the past practice of smuggling heroin through the porous Tuticorin coast, drug traffickers have now selected the Rameswaram coast. This has come to light during questioning of the accused in the recent cases.
Mr. Jiwal said the distance between Rameswaram and Talaimannar, in the Tamil heartland in Sri Lanka, was shorter than the Tuticorin-Colombo route, and it could be covered in 45 minutes. Thus the smugglers were exposed to enforcement agencies only for a brief while. Moreover, with peace initiatives under way in Sri Lanka, the island navy and army appear to have relaxed their vigil and there is also free movement of people from and to Jaffna.
Further, with the seizure of huge quantities of heroin, meant to be smuggled out of India through the Tuticorin coast, in the past, the authorities here stepped up their vigil in the port town.
To hoodwink the agencies, the smugglers have selected Rameswaram.
Enquiries also reveal that the price of heroin in the "wholesale market" in Sri Lanka has shot up in the last few months from Rs. 5 lakhs to Rs. 9 lakhs a kg.
The retail rate is about Rs. 18 lakhs. Thus there is a heavy demand for the drug in Sri Lanka.
That the stakes are big in the transactions is evident from the smugglers purchasing the drug at about Rs. 2.50 lakhs a kg in India, say the sources.
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