New Delhi: A manhunt has been launched for a person hailing from Gujarat as part of a multi-agency probe in connection with seizure of an estimated 1,000 kg of drugs from an Indian dhow off the Kenyan coast last month by international maritime authorities.

The man identified as ‘Raja’ is a resident of Veraval in Somnath district of north-east coastal Gujarat and he had allegedly leased the dhow– Laxmi Narayan– from a small-time businessman of the same locality, official sources said here.

Following reports in the international media, central security agencies began a suo-motu investigation comprising intelligence and anti-narcotics sleuths into the case.     The businessman identified as A Parmar told the sleuths that he had leased the dhow to Raja and that he was unaware of his whereabouts since then, the sources said.

The incident came to light on April 24 when reports said a patrol of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) led by Australian authorities intercepted the large Indian dhow near the Mombasa coast in Kenya recovering over 1,000 kg of Heroin.

The sources said investigating agencies, at present, are questioning at least eight suspects in the case after it came to light that the owner of the dhow complained to Veraval police that the person, whom he leased the boat that was detained in international waters, is absconding and has cheated him.

“Once he is caught, the details would emerge. The man is the main link in this case. International drug enforcement authorities have already been approached,” a senior official privy to the development said.

Sources said Australian authorities have recently sent a communication to Indian agencies stating the said interception was indeed made and three Asians– two Pakistanis and an Indian– were questioned by them but they were let off.

Anti-narcotics and enforcement sleuths have now alerted police departments of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa about Raja, whom they suspect of having a hand in authorising the consignment and travellers on the dhow.

The sources said the first intelligence input with regard to the drug packets, largely Heroin, was generated by Israel which was picked up by Australian maritime authorities and was acted upon.

A team of central security agencies and narcotics department have come to know, the senior official said, that at least 43 packets of Heroin were sent on the ship under the garb of ‘cement bags’ and they were loaded somewhere in high seas close to Dubai and the cache was destined to go to Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania.

Officials said the agencies have asked Australian authorities to provide them vital evidence in the case like samples of the seized drugs, spot photographs of the operation, statements of the people present on the dhow and their legal complaint (FIR) so that a case could be registered here under anti-narcotics laws or the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

The sources, however, said that preliminary information with them suggests that the contraband was destroyed by authorities on-sea but other inputs “can be pursued” to locate the consignor and the consignee of the contraband that has raised suspicion on the links in Indian shores.

Gujarat DGP P C Thakur had, on May 2, said that a CID probe has been ordered to find out whether the heroin seized near Kenyan coast was shipped from Gujarat or any such consignment was delivered here in the past using sea route.

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