India is emerging as an online source for cheap illicit drugs in the US, Europe and Asia. Representative File Photo: Reuters

Indian customs officials made what is being touted as the country’s biggest drugs bust on Wednesday when they seized 23.5 metric tonnes of mandrax tablets with an estimated worth of about US$704 million on the international market.

Bollywood film producer Subash Dudhani was arrested in connection with the drugs haul.

Reports said officers from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence raided the premises of Udaipur-based Marudhar Drinks and found a warehouse full of the banned methaqualone tablets, known in the US as quaaludes. 

“There were estimated to be about 20 million tablets weighing about 23,500 kilos,” an official told the Press Trust of India news agency. “Mandrax is used as a recreational drug in Africa and Asia. The consignment was manufactured in Rajasthan and consigned for Mozambique or South Africa.”

DRI Director General Jayant Misra was reported as saying: “Our Mumbai zonal unit got a tip-off. It was further developed with the help of Border Security Force before the warehouse in Rajasthan’s Udaipur city housing the drugs was busted.”

Udaipur Kiran reported that the factory from where the drugs were seized belongs to Ravi Dudhani, nephew of Subash Dudhani. Subash is an international drug peddler who operated from Dubai.

In last five years, the DRI had seized over 540 kilos of heroin and 7,409 kilos of ephedrine along with other narcotics and psychotropic substances, but this one is by far the biggest haul.

The arrest of Dudhani comes as yet another embarrassment for Bollywood, already plagued by the drugs menace.

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