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Police clam up on drug haul probe

Imphal, Feb. 25: Involvement of an army colonel in yesterday’s seizure of pseudoephedrine tablets at Pallel, 54km south of this town, has compelled Manipur police to keep the progress of the investigation under wraps.

While the police today revealed every detail of another pseudoephedrine haul made at Imphal airport by a Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB) team, they refused to divulge details about the Pallel seizure. NAB is an anti-drug agency of the state police.

“Let us keep all the information a secret as the investigation is going on,” Thoubal superintendent of police A.K. Jhaljit Singh said when asked about the source and destination of the tablets.

The police at Pallel in Thoubal district yesterday recovered pseudoephedrine tablets valued at nearly Rs 20 crore in the black market from three vehicles — all having “army” labels — and arrested six persons. Col Ajay Choudhry, the PRO of the 57 Mountain Division of the army, was leading the three-vehicle convoy from Imphal to Moreh, apparently in a bid to smuggle the tablets into Myanmar.

The six were produced in the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Thoubal, Noutuneshori Devi, this afternoon and remanded in 12 days’ police custody. They were transferred from Pallel to Kakching police station yesterday.

All six have been booked under Sections 21 and 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. If convicted, they could get 10 to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment with a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh.

“Involvement of the army officer in the case has made the police reluctant to disclose the findings of the inquiry and interrogation,” a source said.

The source said as the police were working with central forces in fighting militants, they did not want to make the seizure and arrest a “big achievement” as such an act could harm the good relationship between them and the central forces. The source, however, clarified that the police were not trying to “shield” the army officer.

The army authorities here are maintaining silence over the matter.

In another haul yesterday, NAB personnel seized pseudoephedrine tablets valued at Rs 8 lakh in the black market from Imphal airport and arrested one person.

NAB superintendent of police Md Ishak Shah today said a team led by the unit’s officer-in-charge R.K. Bikramjit Singh seized three cartons of the tablets from the airport complex yesterday afternoon.

Official sources said someone in Guwahati had sent the consignment to Rajkumar Rai, owner of a gas stove repairing shop here, through Skylark Express, a private courier service. The consignment, which did not have the sender’s name, arrived on a flight yesterday afternoon.

Rajkumar was arrested and an Imphal court today remanded him in NAB custody for four days. He reportedly told NAB officials that the consignment was sent to him by Chanchal, a Guwahati-based friend, and claimed he didn’t know it had contained drugs.

“We are working on finding the real owner of the drugs and the role of Rajkumar,” Bikramjit said.

He said pseudoephedrine was used in manufacturing a stimulant popularly known as World is Yours. It is smuggled into Myanmar where World is Yours is manufactured. But the stimulant rarely came back to Manipur, though there were reports that it was smuggled to other Indian cities using the sea route.