A high ranking Punjab police officer of Patiala, Senior Superintendent of Police Hardial Singh Mann, told the Hindustan Times newspaper of India this week that as many as 40 Canada-based Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) are believed to be part of an international drug smuggling racket involving kabaddi players. The drug ring was allegedly being operated by a former police officer, Jagdish Bhola.

According to the Times of India newspaper: “An Arjuna awardee in 1997 and decorated with titles like Rustam-e-Hind, Bharat Kesri, Bhrat Mal Samrat, Hind Kesri and Vishav Khalsa Kesri, Bhola, now in his early 40s, was serving as deputy superintendent of police (DSP) in Punjab Police when he was found involved in drug trafficking and was dismissed from service in 2002.”

Indian newspapers named some of the kabaddi players from Vancouver and Toronto metro areas. Mann said one of the kabaddi players from Vancouver metro area who is a big promoter of the sport left Punjab a month before police raided the houses of Anoop Singh Kahlon in Mohali and Jalandhar earlier this year.

Mann told the media: “Punjab Police have shared the inputs with the Canadian police and we are hopeful of a breakthrough about their hideouts.”

Mann said that they were investigating whether several players whom these key kabaddi players had taken to foreign countries were used to smuggle drugs.

Mann told the media that the information was shared by the Punjab Police with the Police Liaison Officer in the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi at a high level meeting that was presided over by Hardeep Singh Dhillon, Additional Director General of Police, Intelligence, Punjab.

Punjab Police are also investigating the drug smugglers’ links in the UK and Holland and will reveal the details later.

According to the Pioneer newspaper of India, Mann told the media: “Preliminary questioning revealed that drugs would be transported from India to foreign countries primarily by using air cargo, and, also through human couriers. Camouflaging of air cargo used innovative techniques like hiding the contraband in the heels of footwear, books, false cavities in containers, ladies suits, condiment and food product boxes, and even picture frames of religious personalities.”

Mann also said: “Among other modus-operandi, sports clubs based in Canada and Europe were used for distribution of contraband consignments.”

The Congress Party in Punjab is demanding an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (India’s FBI) into the alleged links of some ruling party (Shiromani Akali Dal) politicians with drug smugglers.

Meanwhile in Canada, many South Asians allege that over the years some kabaddi and field hockey players from India paid huge sums of money to be included in teams so that they could come here and stay on illegally – what is known as “kabootarbaazi.”

They say both the RCMP and the CBSA are useless because they never seem to act on information they receive from community members about people allegedly involved in such rackets.

They even allege that some MPs have also been involved in these rackets over the past years.