NRI-drugs mafia nexus: ED raids point to Rs.200 crore hawala ring

Jalandhar (Punjab), Feb 1 (IANS) The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has stepped up its probe into the nexus between drugs mafia, NRIs and business houses in Punjab in the drugs trade, officials said Friday, adding that the scam could involve over Rs.200 crore of hawala money.

Officials of the ED Friday raided a foreign exchange agency in Jalandhar and a jeweller in Ludhiana in this connection.

The scam could involve hawala (illegally transmitted remittances) money worth over Rs.200 crore, ED sources told IANS.

ED assistant director Niranjan Singh also told IANS that the alleged nexus between the drug mafia, NRIs and business houses was turning out to be much bigger than earlier expected.

The drugs mafia was manufacturing drug intoxicant 'Ice', which is in demand among youth in Canada and countries in Europe, from methamphetamine salt which is believed to be easily available and cheaper in Punjab.

Police sources here say that the drug, also known as 'Speed', was being smuggled to other countries from here and the payment was coming through the hawala transactions. The ED has also put officials of some airlines, operating from Amritsar international airport, under the scanner.

The ED, which had conducted raids at nearly 20 places across Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi in this connection Wednesday, is likely to conduct more raids in the coming days, the sources revealed.

The raids were conducted to tracking a money-laundering scandal involving nexus between NRIs and the drugs mafia.

Properties of drugs mafia kingpin Raja Kandola alias Ranjit Singh, who is himself an NRI and now lodged in Tihar jail following his arrest from Punjab in August last year for involvement in a Rs.200 crore drugs trade, and others were raided at several places, the sources said.

The raids were conducted in Delhi's Karol Bagh area, Paharganj, Sainik Farms, Gurgaon's DLF colony, in Chandigarh and Punjab's Jalandhar, Nawanshahr, Sunam, Garhshankar, Abohar, Samrala and Mohali, ED officials said here.

Niranjan Singh had earlier told IANS that his agency was probing the nexus of NRI money laundering with the drugs trade. "The details will come out in investigations," he had said.

The ED registered a case of money laundering against 18 people in October 2012.

Kandola was arrested by police from a farmhouse in Punjab along with other accomplices, for his involvement in the drugs trade. Two separate cases have been registered in Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts against him and others.

In January 2010, Punjab Police unearthed a racket of manufacturing high-end drugs with the recovery of 18 kg methamphetamine worth over Rs.90 crore. The drug is considered to be more expensive than heroin.

Police found a unit set up for manufacturing 'Ice'.

Police sources said the high-end drugs were being supplied to the high-heeled.

The accused in the drugs and money laundering trade were using expensive and high-end imported cars.

Punjab is a major transit and destination point for drugs trade in the region. Every year, various agencies recover hundreds of kilograms of heroin and other drugs being smuggled from Pakistan through the international border.

Parminder Singh Bariana

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