Sandhya Aqua denies links to drug smuggling after cocaine found in imported shrimp feed ingredients

Vizag port in Visakhapatnam, India
Vizag port in Visakhapatnam, India | Photo courtesy of Visakhapatnam Port Authority
4 Min

Editor's note: Sandhya Aqua responded to this article with the following comment:

1) CBI has not confirmed presence of any drugs in consignment. They sent the samples for testing and the results are still pending for presence of narcotics.

2) CBI does not see Sandhya Aqua as an accused [and] have not charged the company yet. This a container of dry yeast ordered from reputable supplier ICC in Brazil and both supplier and us are cooperating with authorities.

3) The bus in question is a company bus and property and in the possession of our company. The bus had a breakdown and police came checked and verified and released the bus and property on the same day to us.

Indian authorities are questioning Sandhya Aqua executives about cocaine and other narcotics found in a shipment of shrimp feed ingredients it imported from Brazil.

Agents from India’s Central Bureau of Investigation found a number of illegal drugs, including cocaine and methaqualone, in a search of a container at Visakhapatnam’s Vizag port on Thursday, 21 March. The container, imported from Brazil via Germany by Visakhapatnam-based shrimp firm Sandhya Aqua, consisted of 1,000 packets of dry yeast for use in the production of shrimp feed, collectively containing 25,000 kilograms of yeast. But acting on a tip from Interpol, CBI agents found drugs present in 70 percent of the 49 packets of yeast it tested, according to the New Indian Express.

The CBI subsequently conducted a raid on Sandhya Aqua’s headquarters and has interviewed company executives, including requesting their call data and details on the payment made for the shipment, according to the Deccan Chronicle. The company is also being questioned about a Sandhya Aqua bus found abandoned on 24 March, days after the raid, containing a hard drive and company documents.

The company said this was the first shipment of dry yeast it had imported from Brazil, and that the “Star Yeast 370” product was intended to be used at its new shrimp feed plant in Kathipudi. The company said it “has a long and strong reputation in the global seafood trade, and has never been involved in any prohibited trade or activities."

“Sandhya Aqua requests everybody to show restraint and support in these testing times,” it said.

The family-owned company was founded in 2005 by Kunam Veerabhadra Rao. It currently operates three processing plants with eight IQF lines, four cooking lines, and six plate freezers, with a collective processing capacity of 50,000 metric tons annually, according to the New Indian Express. Its subsidiaries include AZ Gems, the second largest U.S. shrimp importer, as well as Bonmea Europe and Select Source, which operates in Canada.

The scandal has become a topic of discussion between candidates in upcoming local elections, as Kunam Veerabhadra Rao’s brother is Kunam Purnachandra Rao, the leader of the local branch of the YSR Congress Party. Teluga Desam Party (TDP) Leader K. Pattabhi Ram has accused local government officials of interfering with the investigation and TDP National President N. Chandrababu Naidu calling for an investigation to determine whether the YSR Congress Party has links to international drug trafficking, according to The Hindu.

SeafoodSource Premium

Become a Premium member to unlock the rest of this article.

Continue reading ›

Already a member? Log in ›


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500
Secondary Featured Article