Monday, December 18, 2017

Drug cartels eye Kochi as favourable transit point

Last week, officials of the Kochi unit of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) picked up a Venezuelan national on his arrival from Dubai at the international airport at Nedumbassery.

The person, identified as Harley Gabriel Castro Carreno, was apprehended on suspicion that he carried capsules of cocaine in his stomach. Upon confirming it during a medical examination, Gabriel was kept at the Ernakulam Government Medical College for two days.

Eventually, doctors recovered 101 capsules of cocaine from his stomach. They together weighed just over a kilogram and were worth over ₹5 crore in the international market.

“Preliminary investigations suggested that the narcotic drug, which originated from Sao Paulo in Brazil, was destined to be delivered at the national capital. Gabriel, who had ingested the capsules before his departure to India, was acting as a carrier of an international drug cartel having strong roots in Latin America,” said Venugopal G. Kurup, Superintendent, NCB Cochin Sub-zone.

Further probe was under way to identify the receivers of the consignment in New Delhi, he added.

While the volume of seizure in this case was rather ordinary when compared to big-time operations in “cocaine-high” destinations such as New Delhi and Goa, what worries the anti-narcotic sleuths is a perceptible rise in the frequency of such seizures from a hitherto unconventional destination. Just a month ago, NCB sleuths had foiled a similar attempt to smuggle cocaine through the international airport and arrested a Paraguay national.

During an examination, officials recovered cocaine worth ₹15 crore from a padding concealed inside his clothes. Interestingly, in both the cases, the contraband had originated from Sao Paulo.

“The trend shows that cocaine cartels now prefer tier-two destinations like Kochi as the transit point in view of heightened monitoring at metro airports. Besides the conventional routes of couriers and personal baggage, they are deploying professional swallowers who traffic cocaine stuffed in small capsules ensheathed in rubber or gelatin coverings,” said officials.

Besides the seizure of cocaine, enforcement agencies here had seized 19 kg of ephedrine while it was being trafficked to Selangor in Malaysia through the air cargo complex here.

Similarly, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence had foiled an attempt to smuggle 55 kg of ephedrine through the airport here in August, while Customs sleuths seized 14.5 kg of the substance from a South African national.
18/12/17 U. Hiran/The Hindu