Snake venom price ₹170 crore has been seized from many districts of West Bengal since 2017. One such consignment was seized final week, bearing a well-recognized but mysterious tag – Red Dragon Made in France Code No 6097.
The crimson dragon code, which suggests success, has baffled the investigators for over 4 years as they haven’t managed to get to the kingpins of the unlawful commerce whereas finishing up arrest of small-time couriers, caught with venom saved in crystal jars, a wildlife crime management bureau officer stated.
Snake venom is believed for use in conventional Chinese medicines as antidotes and by high-end drug abusers. It has been recovered in states similar to Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Punjab prior to now few years with Bengal thought of the hub of its smuggling. In all these instances, solely couriers have been caught and the commonality was the crimson dragon code.
“We are still not sure about its origin, destination country and end use. What we do know is that it usually enters India through Bangladesh and is meant to be smuggled out through Nepal and Bhutan,” stated Agni Mitra, deputy director (japanese area) of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).
One of the theories thought of by investigators means that the venom originates from snake farms in Thailand and smuggled via Bangladesh, India and Nepal for its remaining vacation spot both in China or in European nations. They additionally consider that lately, snake venom was extracted in locations similar to Tamil Nadu and Bihar for international purchasers and haven’t dominated out the likelihood of it getting used as a drug in India.
The suspicion that the venom was headed to European nations relies on the Made in France label on the jars. In 2017, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence seized 1 kilogram of cobra venom in Bihar and stated it was being smuggled to France from India. However, the directorate officers didn’t present any data linking France with the unlawful venom business.
Last Friday, the Border Security Force (BSF) seized three jars with the identical code, containing round seven kilograms of suspected snake venom in three kinds – crystalline, liquid and powder. Top officers of the company stated it may value round ₹57 crore within the unlawful market.
“The jar had markings: Cobra SP – Red Dragon – Made in France – Code No 6097. No one was arrested since the jars were recovered from an unattended, under construction house at Dakshin Dinajpur in north Bengal,” stated a senior officer of the BSF’s north Bengal frontier.
In February 2021, BSF discovered snake venom price ₹24 crore from Uttar Dinajpur district, which was being smuggled to Nepal in jars having the identical marking. These cases reminded officers of the West Bengal forest division of related seizures means again in 2017 and 2018 when some of the primary consignments had been seized in north Bengal.
“Back then, the venoms were seized in crystal glass jars and sealed. They had the same markings: Cobra SP – Red Dragon – Made in France – Code No 6097. We had intercepted at least 11 such jars in three consignments and arrested 17 persons from north Bengal,” stated a forest official related to the case. All of them instructed officers that they had been simply couriers and knew nothing in regards to the smuggling racket.
In one consignment, 4 kg snake venom was seized, officers stated, estimating it to value between ₹25–30 crore within the worldwide unlawful market. In different instances in 2017-18, venom price ₹70 crore was discovered, officers stated.
To discover out what kind of venom was within the jars, the West Bengal forest division despatched a minimum of 20 jars to the Haffkine Institute for Training Research and Testing in Mumbai, which confirmed it to be snake venom. A former official on the Haffkine Institute, on the situation of anonymity, stated that the jars got here sealed with the instruction to make use of a laser gun to interrupt the seal.
“We had a tough time as we were not sure what was inside it. It could have been anything from venom to explosive to some radioactive material. It was only when the analysts from both the defence research wing and BARC ruled out the presence of radioactive material or explosive that the jars were opened and tested. We found a combination of venoms in various jars,” the official stated.
The evaluation by Haffkine Institute made investigators take into account the likelihood that the venom was being smuggled again to India after some additions to show it right into a high-value drug. The venom in some of the jars was present in powder type, which the investigators consider might be for drug peddling. The jars present in Uttar Dinajpur final week had white powder; sugary crystalline and coca cola color liquid, making investigators consider that the venom was to be used as a celebration drug.
However, arrested couriers declare that the venom comes from Bangladesh and is headed to China through Nepal and Bhutan to be used in conventional Chinese medicines.
“In some cases, a booklet was found with the jars, written in Thai language, which led investigators to suspect that the venom could have originated there and in other countries in south-east Asia. It was learnt that some farms in Thailand bred venomous snakes in clay water pots in banana plantations,” stated a second WCCB official, who refused to be named.
He stated Indian officers had taken up the matter with their counterparts in China and Thailand prior to now with little headway.
“There was, however, no breakthrough. While the Chinese officials said that they produced their own snake venom and had no information of such illegal trade, Thailand officials too denied having any related information,” stated the WCCB official quoted above.
Wildlife activists are additionally puzzled in regards to the tag, the smuggling route and the consignment amount. “The route seems to be rather illogical,” stated Tito Joseph, program coordinator of Wildlife Protection Society of India.
“If we assume that Bangladesh is the origin, or even if it is a transit country, then why would someone take a longer route through north Bengal and then through Nepal and Bhutan to reach China when this could be easily done through Myanmar.”
He stated that there have been rumours that the snake venom was smuggled to be used in drug events as an alternative to narcotics in India and Nepal.
Experts additionally stated that snake venom is required in very small portions to supply anti-venom. Venom is injected in horses and when antibodies are produced in enough portions, they’re drawn and cultured to supply anti-venom.
“But that is required in very minute quantities and procured legally in India. Several kilos of venom seized over the years could be sufficient to meet the world’s requirement for a few years,” stated a senior official of Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, which earlier used to supply anti-venom.