One of the biggest heroin seizures in Mumbai in recent times – when the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Sunday impounded a container at Navi Mumbai’s Nhava Sheva port with 191kg narcotic worth over Rs 1,000 crore – led to the arrest of three people in New Delhi yesterday.
The interrogation of customs clearing agent Meenanath Bodake, and his relative and alleged middleman Kondibhau Gunjal, who were arrested in Mumbai on Sunday, facilitated the arrests of New Delhi residents Suresh Bhatia, M Nauman, and one Nigam. The DRI said the three were associates of a Delhi-based company called Sarvim Exports, which had allegedly imported the consignment from Afghanistan.
“The goods in the container were declared as ‘raw licorise roots not for human consumption and a firm named MB Shipping & Logistics Solution, in which Bodake is a partner, was listed as customs broker for clearance,” the DRI said.
While it is no secret that Mumbai has always been an important link in global trade of illegal drugs, the DRI is probing what it calls the deep nexus between clearance agents and shadow firms indulging in importing of drugs under the guise of legal goods. A DRI source said that Sarvim Exports’ import-export code was used by Bhatia, who has a record of convictions under the NDPS Act. “Preliminary investigation revealed Nauman as another associate of Sarvim Exports, and it was he who was in touch with Bodake and Gunjal,” the DRI source said.
The DRI said that Bokade, in his statement, said that Nauman had contacted him using Gunjal as a reference, and introduced himself as the import head of Sarvim Exports. He said he received the details of the consignment from Nauman over the phone. The agency further claimed Gunjal had confessed that he was aware the “the cream powder recovered from the import consignment was a narcotic product”.
The agency said that the consignment was labelled ‘mulethi’, a herb traditionally used in Indian homes to cure stomach ailments, cough, and cold. “There could be more arrests in the case as we suspect the clearance agents-middle men-drug exporters’ nexus runs deeper than what has come to light,” a DRI source said.