KOCHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) and intelligence agencies are tracking a Pakistani national, who is suspected to be the kingpin of the racket behind the frequent trafficking of heroin to Sri Lanka on board fishing vessels. The NIA, which is probing the seizure of drugs, five AK 47s and 1,000 rounds of ammunition from a Sri Lankan vessel, has found that a Karachi-based drug cartel is ferrying drugs to the island nation in large quantities.
Haji Salim, a Pakistani national, was behind the drugs smuggling to Sri Lanka, the agencies found out. His identity was first revealed during an investigation carried out by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), which probed various cases related to seizure of drugs from Sri Lankan vessels in recent years. His name also appeared in the NCB probe into the seizure of three Sri Lankan vessels with drugs off the Kerala coast in March this year. Later, intelligence agencies started tracking the syndicate.
“Haji Salim’s network is infamous and has been engaged in international drug trade for several years. It is found that Sri Lankan nationals associated with LTTE have conspired with Pakistani drug syndicates for smuggling drugs and weapons. The conspiracy for smuggling drugs is believed to have taken place in Dubai where Haji Salim is a frequent visitor. Some of the accused persons who were arrested by NIA in seizure drugs and AK 47 from a Sri Lankan vessel off Kerala coast maintained were in touch with Haji Salim,” a source said.
The NIA has named Haji Salim as accused in the case related to the seizure of five AK 47s and 1,000 rounds of ammunition from a Sri Lankan vessel on March 18. Besides, the NIA is on the lookout for Sri Lankan nationals Anju and Deepa Rajan Rangan. The NIA has sought information on them under the provisions of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty signed with Sri Lanka. “The NIA will seek the help of Interpol to track down Haji Salim. A red corner notice from Interpol will be issued soon,” the source added.
The heroin from Afghanistan is brought to Turbat on Pakistan-Iran border. Later, it is loaded on to vessels from smaller ports in Iran and Pakistan. “It is in the high seas that the drugs are moved to smaller vessels. Sri Lanka is used as the transit point of drugs from where they are moved to India and Australia,” sources said.
In a similar case involving the seizure of heroin from a Sri Lankan vessel near Tuticorin last year, the NCB had found that Pakistan nationals lodged in Sri Lankan jails are masterminding drug trafficking using fishing vessels. The drug money is used for the revival of LTTE.