DRI seizes narcotics worth ₹13 crore in Bengaluru

Hidden in photo frames and albums, the consignment was bound for Australia

In the biggest seizure this year, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officers busted an international drug racket and recovered 13.2 kg of pseudoephedrine worth around ₹13 crore at Kempegowda International Airport on Saturday.

Pseudoephedrine, which is used in the production of various narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, is notified as a controlled substance under the NDPS Act.

The consignment was in Singapore en-route to Australia when officials, acting on a tip-off, recalled it back to Bengaluru. The order originated from Chennai and was being shipped via a private courier company, said officials.

This latest seizure comes barely three weeks after the DRI in Chennai had seized 25 kg of pseudoephedrine.

According to officials, the latest consignment was concealed in photo albums, photo frames, bangles and other personal items. It was hidden in a shipment that was meant to look like personal items for a family member in Australia, said officials. A closer examination of the items revealed that the substance had been hidden within the thick covers of the albums and photo frames. The market price of pseudoephedrine is over ₹1 crore per kilogram.

“This is one of the largest such consignments seized in recent times at the international airport and would have been sold in the international market for more than ₹13 crore,” said the DRI in a press release.

Australia connection

According to DRI officials, pseudoephedrine is becoming the main precursor chemical preferred in the manufacture of methamphetamine in Australia. Only 1.5 kg of pseudoephedrine is needed to obtain a kg of methamphetamine, said the release.

Australia has reportedly seen the introduction of imported crystalline methamphetamine over the past five years.

“Despite the pandemic, the total amount [of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine] seized by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence across India this year has already crossed 500 kg, clearly pointing to a mass diversion of the precursor drug to Australian markets,” said the DRI in the release.

“Crystalline methamphetamine, sold as crystal meth or ice, is manufactured in clandestine drug laboratories in Australia, and is a highly purified form of the drug that is recognisable by its translucent crystalline appearance. In recent times, there has been an ever-increasing number of novel cases that have been detected by enforcement agencies of attempted smuggling from India to Australia of both ephedrine and pseudoephedrine,” said DRI officials.

Officials cited two similar attempts to smuggle ephedrine out of India concealed within wedding invitation cards, bobbins and spools of thread.

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