Tyres of trucks, meant to be delivered for the UN mission in The Congo, were found to contain a large consignment of narcotics, suspected to be cocaine; weapons were also found and an Andheri-based shipping agency, which handled the cargo, is now in the dock
The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in Mumbai has been put on the trail of an international drug cartel following the recovery of a huge cache of white powder, suspected to be cocaine, at the Mombasa port in Kenya. The recovery was made from a Norwegian-flagged vessel, the Hoegh Transporter, whose last port of call was Mumbai.
The recovery was made from a Norwegian-flagged vessel, the Hoegh Transporter. File Pic for representation
The drugs were found concealed in the tyres of some of 257-odd trucks, manufactured by a renowned automobile company in India, which were supposed to be delivered to the Congo for a United Nations peacekeeping mission. Some lethal weapons, including AK-47s, have also been recovered from inside the trucks.
A file pic of the Mombasa port in Kenya. Mombasa handles imports, such as fuel and consumer goods, for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, and tea and coffee exports of the entire region. Representation pic/Getty Images
A senior officer from the NCB confirmed that they had received an alert from the central government regarding the seizure, but refused to divulge further details. Sources from the NCB, however, revealed that an Andheri-based shipping agency, which handled this consignment at Mumbai port, is in the dock following the seizure.
NCB sources said that the Kenyan coastal police on Thursday raided the vessel, which was docked in the Indian ocean port of Mombasa, on suspicion that it carried drugs and lethal weapons. The security agents started offloading vehicles from the ship on Friday.
The ship had come on the radar of the Kenyan coastal police after they were alerted by the FBI and Interpol, who have been closely monitoring the movements of the international drug cartel. After almost four days of searching, the authorities recovered a huge consignment of drugs that was concealed inside the tyres of the trucks. The authorities also recovered weapons, including AK-47s, from the vehicles.
The Hoegh Transporter, a vehicle carrier, began its voyage on July 22 at the Port of Hitachi in Japan, where civilian vehicles destined for Kenya were loaded, before reaching Korea on August 1. It then went to Dubai and left from there on September 3.
Its next stop was Mumbai, where the trucks meant for the UN peacekeeping mission were loaded. The ship left Mumbai on September 10. When contacted, Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa refused to divulge details on the seizure. “I cannot comment on the issue at the moment,” he said.
As per reports, Mombasa handles imports, such as fuel and consumer goods, for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, and tea and coffee exports of the entire region.
Vessel to be blown up?
According to an executive order issued by the Kenyan President, ships caught ferrying drugs in Kenyan waters are taken mid-sea and blown up. Kenya has already destroyed two small vessels which were seized while ferrying heroin by the country’s security agencies.
In the case of the Höegh Transporter — which is one of the biggest vehicles carriers with a gross tonnage of 57,757 and a dead weight of 21,400 tonnes — however, the Kenyan authorities are facing a dilemma.
This is because the vessel was ferrying trucks meant for a UN peacekeeping mission. The vessel remains cordoned off at berth number 13, where detectives from the Anti-Narcotic and Anti-Terror police units have been verifying the cargo.
According to a former Indian Army officer, the consignments meant for UN peacekeeping missions are usually routed through the Indian Army’s operational logistics and strategic department. The Army gives clearance to this department, following which the consignment has to go through fewer checks from the Customs department. “The members of the drug cartel were well aware of the benefits of going through this route and hence they decided to conceal the drugs in trucks heading for the peace mission,” said an officer on the condition of anonymity.