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TN a major conduit for Lanka-bound

TN a major conduit for Lanka-bound drugs

The Hindustan Times (New Delhi)
October 2, 2000

G.C. Shekhar
Chennai, October 1

TAMIL NADU has emerged as the single biggest conduit for drugs going
into Sri Lanka with increased seizures by the authorities. However,
there has been no evidence to suggest the LTTE?s hand in the drug racket
though most operators are Sri Lankan Muslims who also engage Lankan
Tamil refugees settled in the state.

According to NCB sources an estimated 10,000 kg of heroin might be
smuggled into the island state annually to cater to over 2 lakh addicts
which is said to be at least twice as large as in India. The heroin that
gets into Sri Lanka, mostly through Negombo, north of Colombo, is a mix
of both Indian and Pakistani origin.

?The preference in Lanka appears to be for Indian-made heroin coming
from poppy growing states like MP, UP and Rajasthan. Mandsaur district
in MP has emerged as one of the largest cartels,? pointed out a senior
official of the state CID which arrested two operators from Mandsaur
while transporting 10 kg of heroin in July 2000. Similarly a lorry with
MP registration carrying 20 kilos of heroin in June was traced to
Zubeida, the sister of known drug king Mohammad Shafi of Mandsaur.
Similarly out of 150 kilos of heroin seized by NCB in the South in the
last one year almost 100 kgs came from Mandsaur.

According to official sources Sri Lankan operators now go directly to
Madhya Pradesh to strike deals with local heroin producers, who
manufacture the drug in clandestine labs after procuring excess poppy
yields from local farmers at exorbitant prices. The heroin packets are
then concealed in lorries that carry other general goods to the coast
especially Tuticorin port.

In fact many Lankan operators, instead of advancing money for a
consignment enter into partnership with producers in MP. Once the heroin
is sold in Lanka the producer in Mandsaur gets his cut through the
hawala route, the official disclosed. Ever since NCB and CID police in
Tamil Nadu started to crack down on lorries coming from MP, the operator
now enter Tamil Nadu through Karnataka with Belgaum emerging as a
favourite stocking point before the drug is moved to the TN coast in
lorries with non-MP registration.

NCB sources also reveal that the Lankan operators used carriers to take
heroin through scheduled flights. Another favourite destination for
heroin smugglers in India is Milan in Italy, where security is said to
be quite lax. ?Milan has become a preferred entry point in Europe for
drugs,? said an NCB officer.

What has baffled authorities is that they have not yet got any evidence
to link the LTTE to any of the drug operations though most operators are
Tamil speaking Lankan Muslims who also draft Lankan Tamils living in
India for their operations. Also the fact that Sri Lankan authorities
have not reported any major seizures from passengers going from Colombo
to Europe or Canada, has punctured the popular theory that the Tigers
smuggle drugs to buy weapons. Another theory has it that the LTTE might
be moving all its drug consignments through the sea considering the lax
coastal security in the island nation.

?Ten thousand kilos of heroin into such a small nation looks abnormal bu
any proportion. It should be going out through other means,? said a
senior police officer familiar with the drug trade.