The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drug trail leads from Salt Lake to Chennai

Chennai, June 7: The trail of the scam that stewed quietly under the roof of one-time scambuster Upen Biswas has surfaced in Chennai.

Nearly three weeks after police cracked a drug operation on the ground floor of Biswas’ Salt Lake home, the Narcotics Control Bureau has seized 500 kg of ephedrine hydrochloride from Pondicherry and arrested two persons.

The chemical would have been enough to make amphetamine-type stimulant tablets worth Rs 1 crore in the drug market.

On May 19, three Myanmarese and two Chinese nationals had been picked up from the house of the former CBI additional director for possessing 24 kg of the same chemical, meant for use in making cough syrup.

The Narcotics Control Bureau has traced both batches of the ephedrine to a common manufacturing source in Nellore in Andhra Pradesh. Official sources said this was the “first case” where it had been possible “to link a seizure of ephedrine with the supplier”.

“We believe that those arrested in Calcutta have links with the people here,” a source said. The two picked up are Ramadoss, the proprietor of Essar Pharma, a bogus chemical firm in Pondicherry, and Kannan from north Chennai. Both have been remanded in judicial custody.

The narcotics bureau claims the Pondicherry bust is a vital link in a “major international racket”. A team lead by its south zone director, Shankar Jiwal, is looking into the scam.

From the batch numbers of the seized ephedrine drums, bureau sleuths zeroed in on Krebs Biochemical Limited in Nellore. Further investigations revealed that a bulk buyer of the chemical was Essar Pharma.

“This company (Essar) exists only on paper and does not use the ephedrine either for making cough syrup nor does it file any return to the Drug Controller of India as statutorily required for such drugs,” a source said.

Essar Pharma was allegedly diverting ephedrine in bulk to a place in the Northeast, from where “its most likely destination is Myanmar”, the source said. It was being smuggled out for use in the manufacture of ATS tablets and was fuel for a money-spinning international racket.

“There has been a marked increase in consumption of ATS world wide which is a growing menace,” the source added.

Essar Pharma has allegedly sent about 1.5 tonnes of ephedrine to the Northeast in recent months and placed orders for another 500 kg from Krebs Biochemical Limited. The narcotics bureau has warned Krebs to be “careful” while taking bulk orders.

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