The defence ministry's public relations officer at Imphal, Lt Col Ajay Chaudhary, and six others were on Sunday arrested in Manipur, with illegal drugs worth Rs15 crore, meant to be smuggled out to bordering Myanmar.
The group, which also included a soldier from the territorial army and a manager with a private airline, were caught at Pallel, about 60km from Imphal, after a chase by the police.
According to the army headquarters, they group was ferrying tablets of the banned pseudoephedrine, a decongestant that can be abused as stimulant, among other contraband, in three vehicles towards Moreh, a border town in Myanmar. The other drugs included Respifed, Omkop, Hilcold, Polyfed and Actidin tablets.
Lt Col Chaudhary, who has been the MoD's public relations officer at Imphal for over three years, was leading the convoy in his official vehicle.
When they were intercepted by the police, Lt Col Chowdhary identified himself as the MoD's spokesperson. But immediately, all of them allegedly sped away. The police chased them for 2 kms before nabbing them.
"The matter is under investigation and strict action will be taken as per the law of the land,” army spokesperson Colonel Jagdeep Dahiya told DNA in Delhi.
The police, who are investigating where the drugs were procured from, suspect that those arrested are part a drug smuggling cartel in the state. All of them have been kept at the Kakching police station in Thoubal district following their interrogation at Pallel.
“He (Chowdhary) initially said he thought the merchandise was the personal belongings of his friend, an assistant manager with a private airlines who was traveling with him,” the police said, adding that, “he kept quiet when he was questioned further”.
Sitanshu Kar, the additional director general, media and communication in the MoD in Delhi,to whom Lt Colonel Chaudhary used to report, said he was yet to get any official report from the Manipur police on this. "A departmental action will be initiated against him (Lt Colonel Chaudhary) once we get an official communication from the state government."