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Amritsar-made drug makes its way to ISIS

Chandigarh, November 6: Italy’s police seized 24 million tramadol tablets at one of the country’s ports on Saturday. Manufactured in Amritsar for a Dubai-based company, the consignment was diverted mid-sea for Islamic State militants to fund their terror activities. Alarmed, Indian and US agencies are investigating the matter.

Tramadol, an opiod (narcotic) pain medication, is said to be in high demand among jihadists who call it a “fighter drug” for its ability to lull pain and fatigue, claim Intelligence sources. Taking the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) at Chandigarh in the loop, Central agencies have asked it to inspect two Amritsar-based firms making the painkiller that sent two consignments to Dubai recently.

A third consignment of one of the firms was recently stopped by Indian Customs on the intervention of the investigating agencies. The export order is being verified. The State Drugs Controller had last year suspended the licences of seven Amritsar firms manufacturing tramadol at the insistence of the NCB.
Yet there were reports of the tablets being illegally manufactured and distributed during the Assembly elections in Punjab with eight lakh seized during the campaign period.

Action against these firms has been limited as tramadol is not on the list of drugs banned under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

Kaustubh Sharma, Zonal Director, NCB, said the export orders of the two Amritsar firms had been found in order. “We are verifying if the consignments reached the listed destinations. The third consignment stopped at one of the ports is being verified,” he said, adding that the NCB had shot off several letters to the Union Government to put tramadol on the NDPS list.

As per Intelligence sources and media reports in Italy, the 24 million tablets seized are valued at 50 million euros in the international market. Manufactured at a low cost, the tablet is sold for Rs 3 in India. But in Libya, Egypt and neighbouring countries, where it is much in demand, it is priced at two euros.

In May this year, 37 million tramadol tablets were seized in Genoa, Italy. These were packed in containers labelled as “blankets and toiletries”. Their origin was traced to an Indian pharmaceutical company.

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