The arrest of an Indo-Canadian truck driver in Punjab has shed light on an international syndicate that has been pumping drugs into North America.
Investigators have also allegedly found direct links between arrested drug smuggler Anoop Singh Kahlon and Olympic boxing medalist Vijender Singh. According to Indian media, Vijender made over a dozen calls to Kahlon in the past one month from his personal mobile number.
Telephone records reportedly show that the two held long conversations during these calls.
Sources added that Vijender’s friend and sparring partner Ram Singh had revealed during questioning that Kahlon had been supplying drugs to him and Vijender and that they had met him several times in the past month.
But India’s star boxer who shot to fame by winning the bronze medal in Beijing Olympic Games, defended his name following the Punjab drug bust.
Vijender rubbished the claim that he had been taking heroin for the past couple of months. He told HT: “I have never taken heroin or any other drug. I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this sentence.”
Earlier, Ram Singh, Vijender’s roommate at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, claimed in a television interview that both he and Vijender had been experimenting with heroin.
Vijender said, “I am a sportsperson and know what is bad for my health. Why would I take drugs and risk my health and career?”
Meanwhile, Kahlon allegedly attempted suicide on Saturday. “He took out a wire from the bucket used for bathing and tried to slit his wrist with it, but he is out of danger,” Fatehgarh Sahib SSP HS Mann said.
Kahlon, a truck driver in Canada, and Kulwinder Singh from a village in Mohali district, were arrested from Zirakpur town last Thursday and have been sent to police remand. Police seixzed 26 kg of expensive heroin worth millions in the the international market.
Police said that Kahlon was the main kingpin and they were used to smuggle the drugs to the various countries of Europe and North America. The duo was nabbed following a tip-off.
They claimed Mann Kahlon has been residing in Canada along with his family since 1995. A truck driver there, Kahlon had made a strong network of drug peddling not only in US and Canada but in some European countries. He used to come to India frequently.
As part of the investigations, police also raided a pharmaceutical factory in Meerut, Francis Biotech Ltd. Owner Gaurav Ahlawat is said to be on the run.
One angle that is being investigated is hawala transactions, with sources saying at least two Canada-based hawala (illegal money transfer) operators as well as others in Delhi, Kapurthala, Moga and Hoshiarpur may be involved.
Indian police are also looking at the possible connections between the Kahlon group and last summer’s bust of one of Punjab’s top drug barons, with links to Canada.
That group led by Ranjit Singh alias Raja Kandola was operating a party-drug manufacturing operation in Punjab, real estate scams and an illegal immigration operation.
Kandola managed a drug empire worth millions of rupees using top models and good-looking young women fluent in English as couriers to send and receive drug-consignments.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in an analytical report say drug seizures originating in India have increased dramatically becoming the number one source/transit country to Canada.
Various methods are used to import heroin into Canada such as postal and courier modes, air transport as well as by land via commercial or traffic vehicles. Particularly in the case of air passengers, an array of concealment methods are utilized to smuggle heroin that range from individuals swallowing the drug to modified suitcases,
picture frames, rolling pins, statues and even hiding the heroin in a baby’s diaper bag.
India has also emerged as a source country for ketamine and other party drugs smuggled into Canada.
The RCMP report also identified Indo-Canadian criminal groups as high-level transporters of synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals from Canada to the U.S.
With an annual turnover of around US$500 billion dollars, drug trafficking is the third largest business in the world, next only to petroleum and arms trade.
Narcotics agencies say India, wedged between two major drug-producing regions, the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent, is a major transit point for drug smuggling to the West where returns are lucrative.