Khat leaves seized at IGI were to be sold in Europe, east Asia: Customs

Anvit Srivastava
The natural stimulant, imported from Ethiopia, was to be sold at $2,500-$3,000 per kilogram via courier services. The total estimated value of the leaves recovered is Rs 12 crore, officials maintained.

The 600 kilograms of dry khat leaves seized by the Customs at the Delhi airport’s cargo terminal on Monday was supposed to be supplied to countries in Europe and East Asia, officials said.

The natural stimulant imported from Ethiopia was to be sold at $2,500-$3,000 per kilogram via courier services. The total estimated value of the leaves recovered is Rs 12 crore, officials maintained.

Elaborating further, the customs officials said the consignment, in three containers, was dispatched from Ethiopia to India on January 39 and arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on February 2.

The recovery of the leaves also led police to two men from Ethiopia and a private cargo agent, all of whom were arrested.

On Wednesday, a team of Customs officials inspected the containers – labelled as green tea and containing 200kg of khat leaves each.

Besides, they also questioned the two arrested foreigners, both residents of south Delhi’s Malviya Nagar.

The duo said that they had smuggled small chunks of dry khat leaves via foreign post office earlier as well.

An officer associated with the investigation said, “They said the consignment was not meant to be distributed in India. They claim they do not have customers here and that the khat leaves were to be sent to European and East Asian countries. India was being used as a transit point to avoid detection as the country is a major exporter of tea. They said they were planning to transport it via courier services for $2,500-$3,000 per kilogram.”

Another officer said that there have been reports of khat being used in Somalia to fund terrorism. However, the officer maintained, they have not been able to establish any such link.

An officer from the Narcotics Control Bureau said khat has been listed as a scheduled substance under the Narcotics Drugs Psychotropic Substance Act.

“As learnt, khat leaves contain cathinone and is either chewed, smoked or used as liquid. Its use may cause hallucination, aggressiveness, anxiety and even elevated blood pressure and therefore may also have side effects such as dizziness, anxiety or even heart problems,” said the officer, who is not authorised to speak to the media. n The dry khat leaves seized at the airport.