India seizes one tonne of ketamine on boat, arrests six Myanmar men

 Indian Coast Guards (back row) pose with the arrested boat's crew and the seized drugs, near Nicobar Islands, India, on Sept 19, 2019.
Indian Coast Guards (back row) pose with the arrested boat's crew and the seized drugs, near Nicobar Islands, India, on Sept 19, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's coast guard has arrested six Myanmar men and seized US$42 million (S$57.82 million) worth of ketamine after spotting a suspicious vessel in the Indian Ocean near the Nicobar Islands.

The 1,160kg drug haul came after coast guard aircraft spotted the boat, which had its lights off, last Wednesday (Sept 18) in India's Exclusive Economic Zone, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The boat's crew did not respond to radio calls and the coast guard eventually boarded it, with officials finding "57 gunny bundles of suspicious substance" last Friday.

"Preliminary analysis... revealed that the suspicious substance was ketamine and there were 1,160 packets of 1kg each onboard the vessel," the ministry added. This made up more than a tonne of the drug.

The six Myanmar men and cargo were taken to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where they were questioned by investigators.

They claimed they left Myanmar on Sept 14 and were due to rendezvous with another boat "operating near the Thailand-Malaysia maritime border line" on Saturday, the statement said.

The Nicobar Islands are located off Myanmar's coast.

Parts of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand are in the lawless "Golden Triangle" zone, the world's second-largest drug-producing region after Latin America.

Large amounts of drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine are churned out in remote jungle labs each year and smuggled across Asia and beyond.