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Mumbai, 12: On June 3, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) seized 200 kilos of cocaine stashed in a container carrying teakwood at the JNPT port. The ship had set sail from Ecuador in April.

This seizure just blew the lid off the drug trafficking business that has been going on for the past few decades. Sunday MiD DAY follows the drug trail and throws light on this uncanny connection between Ecuador and India.

Dope on Ecuador

Ecuador is an eight-hour drive from Columbia. Columbian drug peddlers enter Ecuador illegally without any valid documents. They stash drug packets in their car tyres to escape the cops or simply bribe their way into the country. Many Indian and Pakistani nationals have set shop in Ecuador to export teakwood.

Columbian and Ecuador locals ship their drugs consignment in teakwood containers to other countries from the Guayaquil port.

Om Prakash, Deputy Director General, NCB, said, “It is true that Columbians are into this trade. This consignment too, we suspect, has come from Columbia via Ecuador.”

Chalo Mumbai

Every Monday, a ship leaves from Ecuador for India with teakwood. This ship anchors at the Mumbai port where the teakwood containers are unloaded. After unloading at the dock, few teakwood consignments are transported to Gujarat by trucks.

The ship stops at six ports before touching Mumbai, but since the container is earmarked for India, the officials at other ports enroute have no right to open these containers.

It can only be checked by Indian authorities. Also every alternate week, Singapore-bound ships stop at the Kandla port in Gujarat, skipping the Mumbai port.

Drug stash

The teakwood is obtained from the forest regions of El-empale and Santo Domingo. Major teak suppliers have set up base in these areas from where they take orders for India.

Once the logs are ready, traders procure a letter from the shipping company to release an empty container. Maerskline is the major shipping company that releases containers. Generally, the drug packs are stashed amidst the logs at this stage.

Says a source in the shipping business, “The drug peddlers, in tandem with the traders, bore holes in the wooden logs and insert the drug packs in them. These logs are generally exported to France and India.”

Cocaine theory

Sources even state that the 200-kilo cocaine that was seized was loaded not in the forests, but at the port. Initially, the Maerskline container only had wooden logs before security checks. Security inspection at the port revealed nothing. 

Cocaine was inserted while re-loading the logs. NCB officials too blamed security lapse for the incident. However, the seller, Anil Sharma (name changed) and the buyer, OPM International, have a clean record.

Sources added that this could be a competitor’s ploy to ruin the company’s image. NCB officials have given a clean chit to the shipping company.
Security loopholes

Guayaquil is a major port in Ecuador. There are two other ports namely Manta and Esmeraleas port. However, these drug consignments are shipped through Guayaquil port.

Security at the port is not very strict. At any given time, there are around 25 teakwood containers at the port. Industry sources state, “Every Monday, we have to undergo security checks as we have to transport containers.

Generally, companies bribe these officials to avoid checking. The officials check only around five containers.” One can even drive his/her car inside the port without being questioned.

Present scene

As it is many Mumbai based companies dealing in teakwood have shut down over the years. Now, after the drug haul, there have been negative repercussions on the teakwood business.

“Cops are checking all consignments in every depot at Ecuador where teakwood is loaded. It has also affected business as no one wants to take any risk. Leave alone drug trafficking, the teakwood business is facing a bad period,” said an industry insider.
Cocaine seized in India (approx)

2002 – 2 kg
2003 – 3 kg
2004 – 6 kg
2005 – 3 kg
2006 (upto June) – 200 kg

Cost (approx)
Annual Indian cocaine intake  120 kg
Annual Indian heroin intake 1,100 kg
Annual International heroin trade Rs 20,000 crore

Cost of cocaine in cities
Rs 4,000-5,000 per gram
Cost of heroin Rs 4,000-5,000 per gram
Cost of ecstasy pills  Rs 1,000-1,500 per tablet

Statistics (source – NCB)


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