The ongoing National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into the seizure of 300 kg of heroin, five AK-47 rifles and 1,000 live cartridges of 9 mm ammunition off the coast of Vizhinjam near Thiruvananthapuram has sparked speculation that an international drug trade is going on. And there’s the arms trade racket. Aimed to revive the Sri Lankan Tamil separatist group LTTE.
The case pertains to interception of a boat banned by the Coast Guard following an intelligence input on March 18. The mastermind behind the operation was Sri Lankan Tamil Suresh Rajan, a resident of Colombo, who had been living in Kundrathur, a suburb of Chennai, for some time.
Several sources in intelligence agencies in Kerala and Tamil Nadu said they failed to look closely into the matter as it was being probed by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). An intelligence official attached to the Kerala Police said, “NCB was about to charge-sheet six Sinhalese people who were on board for the NIA to step in and investigate further.”
The NIA investigation later revealed that the six were Sinhalese labourers. Meanwhile, Rajan was arrested from Angamaly in Kerala in August and later detained by Tamil Nadu Q-branch for his links with LTTE groups operating in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.
But when the NIA stepped in and took over the investigation, they found scientific evidence of a Dubai link from a Thuraya handset (believed to be an advanced satellite phone), which was seized from the boat. “This was the crucial evidence that led to the arrest of Suresh and his associate Sundararajan,” the officer said.
During searches conducted by the NIA at the premises linked to the accused in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, several incriminating documents including LTTE-related books and several cell phones, gadgets and SIM cards were seized.
According to the official, the incident of March 18 is not an isolated case. “Evidence collected since Rajan’s arrest, which includes transactions worth crores, shows that he was an international drug smuggler who had active links with Pakistan-based drug runner Haji Saleem, who frequented Dubai, He used to travel between Pakistan and Iran. Rajan played a major role in the smuggling of drugs and weapons into Sri Lanka via India’s backyard,” the official said.
A Tamil Nadu intelligence official said there is evidence that Rajan had met Sri Lankan drug mafia Madhu Lakshita alias ‘Makandure Madush’, who was killed in a shootout in the island nation in October 2020. “Rajan was also in touch with Salim,” said. Officer.
There was also evidence that Rajan and Sundararajan worked closely with individuals being monitored for their sympathy for the LTTE and its alleged revival mission. “If the drugs were to earn money, the five AK-47 rifles seized from the boats were for LTTE sleeper sails,” the officer said.
Officials familiar with NIA investigations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu said they are working closely with central agencies to ascertain the angle of the LTTE. “We cannot ascertain at this time whether there is already a revival (LTTE) in Sri Lanka or Tamil Nadu or it is a money-making group under the guise of reviving the group,” an official said.
Two similar seizures of Sri Lankan boats – before and after the Vizhinjam incident – are still being probed by the NCB. In March, the Coast Guard intercepted a Sri Lankan boat with six crew members from Minicoy and in November seized another Sri Lankan boat from Kanyakumari, containing 120 kg of narcotics and five weapons worth around Rs 1,000 crore.