532 kg heroin haul: Accused gets bail, NIA to move Punjab & Haryana HC

Jagdeep Singh Deep
The agency told the court that they had found through the SWIFT code that the money was received by CITI Bank based in New York. (File)

THE SPECIAL NIA court on Monday granted bail to one of the accused in the 532 kg heroin haul case. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it will appeal against the bail in Punjab and Haryana High Court. The agency had made Ajay Gupta an accused in the case after taking over the investigation in July this year, a month after the customs department made one of the biggest drug hauls from the Indo-Pak border.

Kashmiri salt trader Tarik Ahmad Lone was arrested and 532 kg heroin with an approximate market value of Rs 2,700 crore was seized at the Wagah-Attari border. The contraband was being smuggled from Pakistan via the trade route.

The agency had alleged that Gupta was the man who used to receive the drug consignments and was in contact with Lone. At the previous hearing, which took place last week, Gupta had produced certified copies of his bank statement as proof of payments to two Pakistan-based companies from whom he imported salt.

However, the NIA, while contending Gupta’s bail application, said in court that the copies submitted by Gupta on November 21 were fake and the money did not reach Pakistan. NIA Senior Prosecutor Surinder Singh told the court that Gupta got a licence of Customs House Agent (CHA) in 2011, but it was cancelled in 2013, following which he was not eligible to release any consignment from the customs department, but Gupta continued to do so till April 2019.

Explaining the CHA’s role, the agency told the court that if any consignment comes from other countries to India, the company placing the orders for consignments can only get released it through an authorised CHA. The agency also told the court that to become a CHA, there is a proper process of getting the licence.

Also questioning the mode of payment, the NIA told court that the accused had shown that the money was sent to Pakistan but the receiver bank was shown as ‘Bank of America, New York, USA’. The agency further stated that this too was misleading information as the even the Bank of America had not received the money.

The agency told the court that they had found through the SWIFT code that the money was received by CITI Bank based in New York. The agency also said that in two deliveries, the accused had shown that he paid the money to Bank of America but the money had actually been received by a bank in India, which was detected using the SWIFT code.

The agency, further told the court that the company Global Vision Impex was also suspicious as the agency found on the official website of Pakistan’s Federal Bureau of Revenue that the Sales Tax Registration Number (STRN) of the company was false.

Meanwhile, Gupta’s counsel A S Longia argued that payments made by Gupta were genuine and all the procedures were followed. He questioned the agency’s claim that the certified copies of Gupta’s bank statements were false, saying that the court could summon the manager of the Indian Overseas Bank to ascertain the documents’ authenticity.

After hearing the arguments, the NIA’s special judge N S Gill grated bail to Ajay Gupta. NIA Senior Prosecutor Surinder Singh said they will approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Gupta, who was named in the case, was never taken on remand by the agency despite making claims that he was one of the accused. The court had during the last hearing asked the agency why it had not sought Gupta’s custody.