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Delhi, Mumbai are transit points for drug cartels

Officials said these individuals act as 'carriers' to smuggle narcotics from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2006 18:21 IST

International drug cartels, particularly those run by Nigerians, are increasingly using New Delhi and Mumbai as transit points for trafficking drugs to most parts of Asia.

Investigating the mysterious circumstances surrounding the hospitalisation of late Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Pramod Mahajn's son Rahul and the death of the politician's aide Vivek Moitra early on Friday, Delhi Police on Sunday detained six Nigerian nationals.

"They are suspected to be part of the drug cartel that supplied drugs to Rahul Mahajan and Vivek Moitra," a senior police official said.

The detention only highlights a growing trend. In the past 17 months, 36 Nigerians have been arrested by various law enforcing agencies with an overall haul of 230 kg heroin and 930 gm of cocaine in the capital. Police have also recovered 20,000 tablets of drugs, including Ecstasy.

"We cannot say how many illegal consignments must have missed our detection," says a senior official of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI). "What we have recovered is just the tip of an iceberg and it is difficult to judge how big is the Indian market," said the official.

Officials said these individuals act as 'carriers' to smuggle narcotics from Afghanistan and Pakistan. They added that international cartels bring the 'consignment' to New Delhi and export it to Nigeria where it is further processed before being smuggled to countries in Europe.

"A huge quantity of these substances changes hands in Delhi," said A Shankar Rao, director of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).

Poverty and lack of education in many African countries had led to youths joining the illegal trade for quick money, he said.

"Most of the arrested individuals are in the age group of 25-35 years and the profits are enormous if deliveries are done without getting caught."

"The trend started in 2005 as very few Nigerians had been arrested in 2004. We have arrested eight Nigerians in 2005 although not a single Nigerian was arrested by the police in 2004," said AS Cheema, deputy commissioner of police (DCP) in the narcotics and crime prevention cell.

In an effort to crack down on the trade, the customs department at the New Delhi airport has prepared an elaborate list of known traffickers and their associates, suspected of smuggling narcotics through Delhi.

"We have a list of the people who are known for smuggling narcotics in India and the message has been sent to all the airports in the country to keep an eye on them," said a senior customs official.

Meanwhile, in the largest drug haul in the country, the NCB late on Saturday night seized 200 kg cocaine from a foreign ship at Mumbai's Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust following a tip-off. One kg of pure cocaine costs Rs 10 million in the international market.

The ship had come from South Africa via Hong Kong. "It has eight containers of which only one has been opened so far," the official said.

In a similar operation in the capital in October last year, authorities had recovered 35 kg of heroin worth Rs 350 million in the international market from three Nigerians.

The consignment was hidden in shock absorbers of two-wheelers. DRI sources said narcotics smuggled from Afghanistan and Pakistan were in high demand in the world market and sold at exorbitant prices in the West.

Officials said that Pakistan continues to be one of the biggest sources of smuggling in the country.

"The failure of the governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan to control the drug trade has led to an increase in drug trafficking in India, especially New Delhi," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

"Cartels are focussing on New Delhi as it is the best connected city in South Asia and also a growing market in itself. Furthermore, these cartels are trying to establish linkages in other metros of the country," he said.

Officials added that 'goods' from New Delhi could easily be sent to or received in any part of Asia, especially Southeast Asia.

"Mumbai has become one of the biggest centres of drug trafficking since it is well connected internationally by air and sea," officials said.