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Operation Vitamin: Two British nationals nabbed with OCI cards, probe widens in drug racket

Both British-national accused are married to Indian women that make them eligible for the OCI cards.

Virendrasingh Ghunawat   New Delhi     Last Updated: June 18, 2018  | 17:58 IST
Operation Vitamin: Two British nationals nabbed with OCI cards, probe widens in drug racket
Picture for representational purpose

Operation Vitamin, that the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has been running to bust an international drug syndicate has taken a new turn. The agency is shocked to learn that two accused - Jonathan Thorn and John Brecken - from England were in possession of Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards. Both are OCI cardholders and also the key players of the international drug syndicate.

As per the Indian Constitution, the OCI is an immigration status authorized to a foreign citizen of Indian origin to live and work in India indefinitely. Though not actual dual citizenship, the OCI card allows holders multiple-entry and multi-purpose lifelong visa to visit India. It also exempts them from foreigner registration requirements for any length of stay in India.

Accused Jonathan Thorn has been convicted by UK law enforcement agencies in several drug related cases in the past. "He is a big time criminal involved in international drug racket. Thus, the DRI is shocked to see how these criminals got the OCI cards in hand", the DRI official said.

After more digging, DRI came to know that Thorn is married to a Manipuri woman and hence, becomes eligible to get OCI card. During the questioning, Thorn stated that she is a housewife and claimed to have met her in Goa. However, the DRI officials are not taking it on the face value.

Similarly, John Brecken also got married to a Punjabi woman to get the OCI card.

These cases are clear indication that drug players have adopted the route of marrying Indian women to get OCI cards and run a drug syndicate within the country.

On the condition of anonymity, the DRI official told, "While granting OCI, the verification with law enforcement agencies of their parent countries would have revealed their past drug cases. Was it done? We are yet to ascertain".

Till now, the DRI have arrested 11 persons in this case - Rahul Shedge, Anthony Paul, Akshinder Sodhi, Ishrat Parmar, Purohit Jagdishbhai, Mayur Sadrani, Sarpreet Singh, Nyugen Kuong, who is from Vietnam, British nationals Jonathan Thorn and John Brecken and the latest Jimi Singh Sandhu, owner of Vijay Industries.

Last week, the DRI raided 14 residential and industrial places in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa and seized 308 kg of ketamine, 2,000 kg of raw material, hashish, cocaine and opium worth nearly Rs 56 crore.

Meanwhile, during the interrogation, it was revealed that these foreign nationals were paying rent of Rs 75,000 per month for the last six months to a Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) functionary Vasudev Parab for his plot in Goa that they were using as a drug factory.

Although Parab claims he was unaware of the chemicals being produced in the factory, DRI is likely to question and record his statement, sometime soon.

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