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Ex-IITian held for US drug cartel link

The Narcotics Control Bureau says there are many IT cos who are trafficking psychotropic drugs, reports Sujit Nath.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2007 20:29 IST
Sujit Nath

The arrest of Sanjay Kedia (33) may be just the tip of an iceberg. A sizeable section of the mushrooming IT and IT companies might be dealing in nefarious activities online, including sale of psychotropic drugs, which Kedia’s company did.

Officers of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) claimed that there are several other IT companies in India who are in to the same illegal business and minting money in millions.

“The problem is there is no monitoring system on them. It’s only on the basis of specific complain or tip-off, the investigation agencies usually take action,” NCB regional director Sandeep Mittal said.

Kedia, an alumnus of Delhi IIT, invited online purchasers of psychotropic drugs in the USA and Canada over toll free numbers and internet. He had an efficient system working in the USA, courtesy, his business associate there – Steven Mahana.

They would also arrange for fake prescriptions for customers who wanted it along with fake signature of doctors. Since drugs like Phentermine are prescribed drugs and it’s very difficult to get them over the counter in the USA.

Kedia’s call center in Kolkata’s IT hub in Salt Lake flooded 'spam' mails throughout the world. While spam mails are deleted by most e-mail users, there are specific customers who look for agencies selling drugs illegally. Kedia’s spam mails caught their attention and the negotiation started. 

Once the deal was clinched, Kedia used to send fake prescriptions with forged doctor’s signature to his business partner Steven Mahana in USA. He also used to send detail profile of the client based in USA including his height, weight, age, name and address to Mahana through Voice Over Internet phone system.

Now it was Mahana’s job to arrange these prescribed drugs illegally to their customers, obviously at a enhanced rate, through several drugs dealers working on their behalf. The drug dealers used to get some commission for the job.

They used to provide door-to-door delivery system and used to charge exorbitant charge for the service. “Those who are addicted to these drugs usually don’t think twice about the charges. They (client) just want to procure the drugs. Mainly his business was confined to USA,” a senior NCB officer said.

Kedia’s Xponse call centre in Salt Lake used to control the entire transaction by obtaining and supplying psychotropic substances outside India, which is a violation of section 12 of Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 and punishable under sections 24, 29, 30 and 38 of NDPS Act, 1985.

Kedia’s clients used to pay for the service through credit cards. Kedia also receive payment through high-risk Internet transaction like gambling or by obtaining the membership of pornographic sites etc.

NCB officials are suspecting that apart from using Mahana as his partner, he might procured such drugs from India and used to send to his clients abroad through courier.

“We are looking in to the matter and also suspecting that there might be some USA based doctors who are involved in the racket. His monthly transaction was $500,000 per month,” a senior NCB officer said.

The team of NCB officials along with officials from customs, central excise, public sector banks, IT experts conducted simultaneous raids at Kedia’s office at Salt Lake and New Delhi. The raid was supported by Drug Enforcement Administration at various places in USA.

“In the raid several documents including huge amount of drug money laundered in to more than 20 Indian and multinational bank accounts by Kedia and his companies has been seized. We also seized cash Rs 24,06,500,” Mittal said.
Kedia also laundered large sums of drug money in various international banks accounts in Hongkong, Luxembourg and USA.

Kedia used to run an IT company known as Xponse Technologies limited located at Kariwala Towers at J1/5 Block EP Sech Bhawan, and Xponse IT Services Private Limited located at module number-103, SDF Building, Block-GP.

For the last one year NCB started the investigation under the code name of 'Pharma' and finally to crack the case by arresting Kedia. The racket was never heard in West Bengal and therefore NCB officers are planning to carry out similar operation in future following information that there are may other such companies who deals with the racket.

Email Sujit Nath: sujit.nath@hindustantimes.com