The directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) on Wednesday busted a factory in Panvel, from where impure Ketamine was being sent to Goa and Gujarat to be smuggled to the UK and Canada, ending its three-day Operation Vitamin.
The crackdown, one of the biggest this year, ended with the arrests of 10 men, including two UK nationals and one from Vietnam, and seizure of 308kg of Ketamine, 250kg of raw material needed to make the drug and other drugs valued at ₹35 crore.
The probe revealed that the factory in Rasaini-New Panvel was the epicentre of the Ketamine syndicate, with Bhandup resident Rahul Shedge as the mastermind. Shedge manufactured impure Ketamine in this factory, which was then distributed to the entire western India, said DRI officials. Acting on inputs, DRI Mumbai raided the factory, Jay Vijay Industrial Estate, a flat in a plush locality in Jogeshwari and various other places in Goa, Baroda, Bhiwandi. Seven people were arrested from the city, while subsequent action in Indore and Mangalore took the number of arrests to 10.
According to officials, Shedge manufactured Ketamine Intermediate, which is one step away from becoming pure Ketamine, as it is not covered under the NDPS Act. DRI officials kept an eye on their activities and raided the premises only after they produced pure Ketamine from the intermediate.
DRI had arrested Shedge in 2009 with Alprazolam tablets and powder, while the NCB arrested him in August 2012 in connection with a Ketamine case, a DRI official told HT. “Shedge used to sell Ketamine Intermediate to two rackets, one based in Goa another in Gujarat,” said the official.
The Goa-based racket was being run by two British and a Vietnamese nationals. They used to convert the impure Ketamine to its pure form and send back the final product to Mumbai, from where it was sent to the United Kingdom and Canada through courier shipments. They would conceal Ketamine in teabags.
DRI officials suspect the arrested British nationals were dealing with other drugs and active in the drug supply chain for long.
The Gujarat-based racket used to carry out the Ketamine conversion at factory in Baroda. The gang used to send the final product to a place in Palampur, from where Ketamine was sent to a port in Gujarat to be transported to African countries using the sea route. The drugs would be smuggled along with ordinary chemicals, the official said.
This syndicate is believed to have supplied drugs to international traffickers in Australia, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, UK, Canada, Malaysia, Vietnam and Kenya. “As we cracked down on the main source of Ketamine and unearthed the entire set-up, we believe that there will be no Ketamine in the market for a long time,” additional director general, DRI Shravan Kumar told HT.
Apart from Shedge, the arrested include New Panvel resident Anthony Paul, Jalandar resident Akshinder Sodhi, Ishrat Parmar, a resident of Juna Deesa, Gujarat, Purohit Jagdishbhai, a Vadodara resident and Mayur Sadrani from Rajkot in Gujarat. A man from Indore who acted as a mediator between Shedge and other rackets has also been arrested. All have been booked under relevant sections of the NDPS Act.