Guwahati, July 28: Drug cartels comprising African nationals are using the northeastern states as transit routes to smuggle consignments of heroin, charas and cocaine to the West.
Confirming this, the zonal director of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), P.K. Ghosh, said customs sleuths had come to know of African nationals, mostly Nigerians, routing drugs from Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, an opium-producing region in Southeast Asia called the Golden Triangle, to Europe and the US through the Northeast.
“They are smuggling the drugs through air cargo under misdeclaration, a term used when the consigner does not declare what the consignment actually contains,” he said.
Echoing Ghosh, a source in the customs department said that these African drug syndicates “which used to operate mostly from the metros in India and the heroin-trafficking route from Pakistan to India through the western border” had of late become active in the Northeast, causing concern for drug enforcement agencies.
“The most preferred modus operandi is to send the contraband through air courier parcels. This gives the kingpins the advantage of anonymity and makes it difficult for the investigating agencies to trace the masterminds of the trade,” the customs source said.
Most of the private courier companies do not press for details about the sender. They do not bother to take either his/her passport number or nationality, making it easy for a person to provide false names.
In September last year, customs sleuths arrested Dike, a 30-year-old Nigerian national, from Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International airport. He had booked the parcel for the US and was about to board a flight to Delhi when he was arrested. Dike had concealed heroin inside the buttons of women’s garments.
Last month, the NCB seized 400gm “high-grade” heroin, worth around Rs 40 lakh in the international market, bound for Spain.
Ghosh said the heroin was seized from the air cargo of a private courier company in Guwahati and booked by an African national in Shillong. The consignment was concealed between photo albums, cotton sarees and greeting cards.
“The seized heroin was of very high quality, having a high percentage of morphine. This variety of heroin, which is creamy white in colour, is known in the trade as number 4 heroin and must have been smuggled in from Myanmar,” Ghosh said.
The NCB has not been able to track the consignor who mentioned his name as James Daniel. Ghosh said some local youths were also into drug smuggling.