M A I N   N E W S

Akali leader held with Rs 23-cr heroin
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 23
Senior leader of the Youth Akali Dal Parshotam Lal Sondhi was arrested by sleuths of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) while he was ferrying 23 kg of heroin in his car (Indica) to Rajasansi Airport here today.

Joint director of the DRI Dheeraj Rastogi said it was the biggest-ever seizure of heroin to be smuggled through an airport. Though the actual destination of the consignment of the contraband could not be ascertained in the preliminary investigation, it was believed that it was being smuggled to Canada. The leader was arrested in a joint raid of DRI officials from Amritsar, Ludhiana and New Delhi. Sondhiís accomplice Surinder, alias Bittu Atwal, could not be arrested.

Rastogi said the heroin was believed to have been smuggled from Pakistan. The leader made 46 packets of the contraband and concealed it in cardboard boxes, packed with cloths and fine lining. Rastogi said the cloths, carbon papers and other material recovered from the house of Atwal matched with the material found in the seized contraband packing.

Senior police officers, on the condition of anonymity, said they were not informed of the raids in advance.

Shiromani Akali Dal (Bittu) leader Baldev Singh Sirsa said the seizure of heroin from the Akali leader had vindicated his stand that there was a nexus of police and politicians, who were instrumental in the smuggling of deadly drugs in the region. Earlier, Sirsa had been taken into custody when he tried to stage a protest march at Tarn Taran. Two days after the announcement of Sirsa that he would stage the protest march, the CIA wing had seized 4 kg of heroin from a smuggler. Meanwhile, secretary of the SAD Daljeet Singh Cheema said Sondhi had nothing to do with the party.

Dharmendra Joshi adds from Jalandhar: Sleuths of the DRI raided Sondhiís house in the Arjun Nagar locality here today.

Rastogi said his men had gone to the locality to carry out a search at Sondhiís house and three shops. As they were found locked, they sealed them. A search at these places would be carried out within a day or two.

Rastogi told The Tribune that Sondhi revealed during preliminary interrogation that he had been given the heroin in 46 packets hidden in as much unstitched womenís suits by Surinder, alias Bittu Atwal of Samipur village in Jalandhar to hand over it to an NRI at the Amritsar airport. It was to be smuggled to Canada. He said raids were conducted at the house of Atwal to nab him but he had already left the house.

Meanwhile, senior Akali leader and Lok Sabha deputy speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, who was in Jalandhar to attend a function, said it was unfortunate that Sondhi had been caught with heroin.

Atwal said Sondhi used to attend his functions as an Akali worker. He said law would take its own course to punish the guilty.



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