Mundra Heroin Bust: Report Says Key Smuggler Was Arrested in Separate Case, Released

Nabibullah, an Afghan national, was in the Punjab police's custody from June last year in connection with a different drug smuggling case. He was released since there was no evidence and fled the country after the Mundra bust.

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New Delhi: A key individual who was part of the network responsible for smuggling 3,000 kg of heroin that was seized at Gujarat’s Mundra port between September 17 and 19 last year was reportedly in the custody of the Punjab police from June in relation to a different drug case but was released and fled days after news of the seizure broke, the Hindustan Times reported.

Nabibullah, an Afghan national, is thought to have fled India just five days after the Department of Revenue and Intelligence (DRI) seized the heroin worth Rs 21,000 crore in the largest ever bust by an Indian agency.

Also read: Rs 20,000-Crore Heroin From Afghanistan Seized at Gujarat Port

Nabibullah is apparently a key player in the narcotics smuggling trade in the region and has organised smuggling operations into India in the past.

The newspaper cited an anonymous source from within a central investigative agency as saying that Nabibullah, along with four others, had been detained by the Punjab police in June, months before the massive drug bust at Mundra. He had apparently been interrogated for a long time before he was released since they could not pin any charges on him at that point.

The same source told the newspaper that Nabibullah had supervised the smuggling of a smaller consignment of drugs (300 kg) in June last year, also at Mundra port and using the name of the same firm as was used in the September case: Ashi Trading Company. Moreover, the same Kandahar-based firm – Hasan Husain Limited – was used in both cases and the illicit drugs were labelled as ‘semi-processed talc’.

A second unnamed officer of a central investigative agency told the newspaper that the June consignment had been used as a ‘tester’, following which Nabbibullah gained the confidence to attempt a larger-scale operation. He apparently used to smuggle drugs using border smugglers, couriers and other such means before he began utilising the Mundra port.

Nabibullah is thought to have lived in India for the past five years and left within days of the news of the DRI’s seizure breaking. He is thought to have left via Pakistan but no concrete routes have been identified as yet.

Ever since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August last year, fears around a step-up in the illicit opium trade into India have mounted. Afghanistan is the world’s biggest illicit opiate supplier and the role played by the drug trade in terror funding in the region has been well established.

Also read: How Opium and a Global Drug-Smuggling Operation Propped up an Empire

The Taliban claim that they plan on banning drugs outright.

Eight persons have been arrested in relation to the case so far, which was taken over by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) in October last year. They include four Afghan nationals residing in the National Capital Region (NCR), two Uzbek women and a Chennai couple who were traced back to the Ashi Trading Company.