A gang of international smugglers has been apprehended by Indian agencies while allegedly trying to smuggle around 218 kg of heroin, worth over Rs 1,500 crore in the international market, off the Lakshadweep coast, sources said on Friday.
The operation was jointly carried out by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) off Agatti coast in Lakshadweep, sources told PTI.
An official statement later said an operation was launched by the DRI after it developed specific intelligence over a period of several months that two Indian boats would be sailing from the coast of Tamil Nadu and receive narcotics in large quantity somewhere in the Arabian Sea, during the second/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).
After several days of continuous search and monitoring amidst 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.
On questioning, some of the crew members in these boats confessed that they had received heroin in huge quantity on the high seas and that they had concealed it in both the boats.
In view of this, both the boats were escorted to Kochi for further proceedings.
Both the boats were thoroughly searched at the Coast Guard District Headquarters in Kochi, which resulted in recovery of 218 packets of heroin weighing 1 kg each.
The proceedings under the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 are currently being undertaken by the DRI.
Follow up searches are taking place at various locations and further investigation is in progress, the statement said.
The operation was meticulously planned and executed by the DRI and ICG and entailed extensive surveillance in the rough seas over a period of several days.
The seized drug appears to be of high-grade heroin and its value in the international illicit market is estimated to be around Rs 1,526 crore.
In the recent past, the ICG and DRI have undertaken some significant anti-drug trafficking operations.
This is the fourth major drug haul by the DRI in the past one month.
Earlier, the DRI had recovered 205.6 kg heroin from a commercial import consignment of gypsum powder at the Kandla port on April 20, 396 kg of yarn (laced with heroin) at Pipavav port on April 29, and 62 kg heroin at Air Cargo Complex, IGI Airport in New Delhi on May 10, collectively valued at approximately Rs 2,500 crore in the international illicit market.
It said the joint operation against transnational drug trafficking networks has been successful in disrupting the inflow of narcotics into the country through maritime routes.