Thane drug bust: 2 Avon Lifesciences officials among three held

Thane police has arrested three persons, including a director and an operations manager of Solapur factory of Avon Lifesciences Limited, in connection with the recovery of a major haul of ephedrine, pegged at Rs 2000 crore, earlier this month.

According to police, the arrests have led to unravelling of international drug mafia links of the accused. With the fresh arrests, the number of accused in police custody has risen to 8. While Punit Shringi, in-charge of operations, was arrested from suburban Virar last night, Manoj Jain (46), one of the directors of the company, and Harjit Singh Gill (42), a transporter, were caught today from suburban Mahim and Navi Mumbai, respectively.

Police also seized around 10 kg of ephedrine, a controlled drug, from Shringi's car. Shringi had been brought in by the factory management in September 2015 and was subsequently made in-charge of its operations in Solapur. "The seizure of narcotics and subsequent arrests have led police to unravel major international drug mafia links," Thane Police Commissioner Parambir Singh told reporters today.

According to police, Jain had gone abroad several times to meet suspected international drug smuggler Vicky Goswami along with Jaymukhi and Kishore Rathod who are wanted in the case. "Jain had met Goswami in Kenya and they were about to start a project of manufacturing narcotics in the Solapur factory to sell it in international market," Singh said.

Thane police had unearthed the haul of around 18.5 tonne of ephedrine, worth approximately Rs 2000 crore, by raiding the premises of Avon Lifesciences Limited earlier this month. The lid on the drug syndicate was blown after police arrested a Nigerian drug peddler from Kalyan and recovered around 500 grams of ephedrine from him on April 10.

"The Drug Enforcement Authorities (DEA) from various states have approached Thane police to get information about the drug racket after it was busted," Singh said. He said a DEA official, Derreck Odney, had handed a letter to Thane police informing that those arrested in the case were working in coordination with Goswami.

"The wanted accused namely Jaymukhi, Rathod and Narendra Kacha had gone to Kenya to study the manufacturing of amphetamine and metamphetamine from ephedrine and pseudoephedrine," Thane police stated in a release today.

According to the release, Gill's vehicles were allegedly used to transport narcotics. One of the vehicles was used to transport 1.3 tonne of ephrdrine to Ahmedabad from Solapur, which was in turn handed over to Kacha, it said.

Police had seized around 7.6 kg ephedrine powder from cabin of an accused arrested earlier and another 9,500 kg from an adjacent godown in the factory, besides 571.5 kgs of the drug and another 8,541 kg of pseudo ephedrine (powder) from the premises of the factory.

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