Unanswered questions galore about India’s largest narcotics seizure

Officials say that though the drugs were sent to other destinations, smaller quantities could have been rerouted to Indian cities including Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi and Mumbai

Questions remain regarding the seizure of 2,525 kg of methamphetamine in the sea by the Indian Navy and NCB | File photo

It was the largest amount of contraband ever found by any Indian agency. A total of 2,525 kg of methamphetamine of the Heisenberg quality were seized as part of Operation Samudra Gupta carried out by the Indian Navy and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).

The NCB tweeted on May 13 about the seizure with videos of the catch which had distinctive imprints of the Pakistani establishment on it.

The seized stuff is said to be valued at INR 25,000 crore in the international market, given the purity level of the Methamphetamine. It took more than 23 hours for the NCB to complete the enumeration of the drugs.

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Three days after the operation, in which one person was apprehended, the NCB is planning to seek the custody of the arrested person, identified as Zubair Derakhshandeh, who the agencies believe is a Pakistani. He was remanded to judicial custody by a magistrate’s court on Monday. The NCB argued that Zubair is a Pakistani who speaks five languages but he maintained he is from Iran.


According to sources close to the operation, it is confirmed that the vessel came from the Iran-Pakistan belt. The intended destination of the consignment was the Maldives or Sri Lanka. Earlier there were reports that the destination was Australia which the investigating agencies are still not ruling out.

Officials say that though the drugs were sent to other destinations, smaller quantities could have been rerouted to Indian cities including Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi and Mumbai.

Sanjay Kumar Singh, Deputy Director General (Operations) NCB, told ANI news agency that this was the largest seizure in terms of monetary value. According to him, the vessel originated from Chabahar port in Iran but the source of the drugs was Pakistan.

“The mother ship was being stationed at different points in the sea. The smaller boats would go from various countries and collect consignments from the mother ship,” added Singh.

Sea operation

According to the NCB, the mother ship had sunk by the time the Indian Navy intercepted the operations. The crew except the one arrested fled the scene in a speed boat and crossed the Indian waters.

There are contrasting reports about the number of people who were on board. Some sources suggested that as many as five people escaped but some experts feel there must have been more hands on a ship of that size.

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There is confusion regarding the smugglers’ modes operandi. Since the NCB hasn’t disclosed the operation’s precise location, very little is known about it. The NCB was handed over the confiscated contraband by the Navy from someplace off the coast of Kerala, according to information already disclosed.

From the video released by the NCB, it is clear the consignment has Pakistan written all over it. Some of the agency sources hint that the entire operation could have been controlled by the Pakistan-based drug mafia.

Many angles

When the news first broke, it seemed the vessel had been seized. But it was later revealed that the ship sank before the Navy approached it. It is not clear from where Zubair was apprehended. The officials linked to the operation are tightlipped. The media is awash with thriller stories about the mystery ship.

There are even reports that those on board escaped in speed boats as the ship sank in front of the Navy, which sounds very unlikely given the preparedness and capabilities of Operation Samudra Gupta.

Another speculation is that the revealed seizure is only a part of the original consignment and that more may be revealed in the coming days.

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The Operation Samudra Gupta was launched in January 2022 primarily to collect actionable inputs to intercept vessels carrying narcotic contraband.

The current Samudra Gupta operation, started in February 2022, has seized roughly around 4,000 kg of various drugs, said a senior NCB official.

In February 2022, 529 kg of hashish, 221 kg of Methamphetamine and 13 kg of heroin were seized in the high seas off Gujarat, all believed to be sourced from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Drug seizures

On October 8, 2022, Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorist Squad intercepted a Pakistani boat and recovered 50 kg of heroin valued at 350 crores and detained six crew members.

Two persons were arrested in connection with the Rs 375 crore worth of drugs seized at the Adani Group-controlled Mundra port in Gujarat last year.

According to the International Narcotics Control Board, there is a starp rise in drug seizures in India in the last five years with the darknet and maritime routes emerging as the preferred modes of trafficking.

According to the narcotics watchdog’s 2022 annual report, India, which is home to a large chemical and pharmaceutical industry, has witnessed the rise of commercial chemical factories that have been adapted to illicitly make large quantities of synthetic drugs and their precursors.

This development has been driven by the availability of highly qualified but underemployed chemists susceptible to recruitment by criminal outfits.