The Indian Coast Guard on Saturday, April 9, apprehended a trawler with an Iranian registration near the islands of Andaman and arrested nine Iranian nationals. The trawler was brought to Chennai port from Andamans. The Indian Coast Guard was on patrol when it spotted an unidentified boat near Indira Point in Andaman. During an inspection, the Coast Guard personnel found nine people who are believed to be Iranian nationals inside the boat. As none of them had any required permission for entering Indian waters and they gave evasive answers, the Indian Coast Guard seized the boat. However, police sources say that the Narcotics Control Bureau called for the trawler to be taken to Chennai port, as the agency wants to probe whether the trawler was being used to smuggle drugs into India.
Based on NCB’s request, the boat has been brought to Chennai. It is believed that the NCB has some information that this boat was trafficking drugs. No drugs have been found on the boat, but ever since the big seizure of drugs at Mundra port last year — where a large consignment of heroin weighing nearly three tonnes was confiscated at the Gujarat port — agencies have stepped up surveillance on the route that was taken by the ship. This Iranian trawler was also travelling on the same route, and so was seized by the Coast Guard.
Police sources say that the people who have been arrested have said that they were looking for another boat that had gone missing, and they accidentally drifted into Indian waters. The agencies will also verify this version.
It may be noted that in August 2021, a Sri Lankan boat was apprehended by Indian officials and a group of Sri Lankan Tamils was arrested after they were found to be smuggling drugs into the Indian coast. The NIA, after investigation, had held that the smuggled contraband was used for funding the activities of the now-defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
In a similar manner, the premium investigation agency is probing whether the contraband drugs were meant for funding any nefarious activities. The identity of the smugglers is also being probed by the NIA as the NCB may not be in a position to conduct a detailed probe covering all aspects of the smugglers.
The Tamil Nadu coastal police and Marine police are also on high alert along with the Coast Guard to prevent any smuggling into the state following the interception of Iranian nationals at sea by the Coast Guard.