5 Indians held in China for drug smuggling plead innocence

From K J M Varma Beijing, Sep 21 (PTI) Five Indians who were recentlycaught carrying cocaine in China today pleaded innocence,saying they were merely couriers transporting consumer goodsbetween Kolkata and Kunming and may have been cheated by druggangs. The five men who were caught in two batches in the lastfew weeks at the Kunming airport were today provided consularaccess with Indian officials in Kunming city during which theysought Government of India’s support to get them repatriated. They have been transporting goods between the two citiesas couriers for some time and they claim they have no inklingthat some of the food packets and laptop bags they have beencarrying were stuffed with cocaine, officials told PTI here. They said the goods were procured from different marketsin Kolkata but did not disclose any specific details or names. The five men, all residents of Kolkata, were identifiedas Sheikh Ahmad Ali (46), Akrar Khan (33), Feroz Khan (31),Sheikh Ismail (24) and Maqsud Alam (24). Ismail is reportedly a student in one of the colleges inKolkata. It appears that they were caught because of extrasecurity mounted ahead of the G20 summit held Hangzhou city onSeptember 4-5. Security was beefed up all over China during that timewith airports equipped with special scanners. The five will face investigations followed by courtproceedings. Besides them, seven Indians are being currently held inprions at Guangxi and Guangzhou cities on drug smugglingcharges. Drug trafficking is a very serious offence in China whichin some cases even resulted in death penalties or long periodsof imprisonment. Also, India and China have no prisoner swap agreement forthe five to be repatriated to Kolkata to serve their prisonterms there. In July, a Colombian model was sentenced to 15 years injail for drug smuggling in China. She was arrested last yearat Guangzhou airport over allegedly attempting to smuggledrugs in her laptop bag. PTI KJV SAI AKJSAI

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