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India hot spot for Colombian drug cartels

mumbai Updated: Aug 23, 2012 01:09 IST
Presley Thomas
Presley Thomas
Hindustan Times
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Investigators are worried about the focused persistence of South American drug cartels in entering India. The first big effort of the Colombian drug cartel to ply its trade in the country was in 2006, when they tried to smuggle 200 kilograms of cocaine into Mumbai through a container at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT).

But the container was seized, and it made the drug cartel go back to using men to transport small amounts of cocaine, a modus operandi the cartel had mastered over the years while entering North America and European Union countries, said sources in the directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI).

“They have enough mules to transport drugs in small quantities. Though their favourite method to infiltrate cocaine is by the sea, they also try and push it through airports,” said a DRI officer, requesting anonymity.

The worry also stems from the fact that most peddlers and smugglers who have been arrested in Mumbai belong to African countries, especially Nigeria, known to be the key transit point for Colombian drug cartels, said anti-narcotics cell officials. “Most of the recently arrested men are from Nigeria, and we have one Zambian national,” said deputy commissioner of police (anti-narcotic cell) Vinayak Deshmukh.

The flux towards India and southeast-Asian countries has been seen after America and the European Union have consistently foiled attempts of smuggling, and have managed to seize close to 200 metric tonnes of cocaine in a calendar year, said sources in the intelligence bureau.

The other major reason for the drug cartels to foray into India is because of the availability of precursor chemicals like ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine, which are used in the process to obtain cocaine from cocoa paste, said sources.

Sources said the golden corridor which extends from Vadodara to Vapi in Gujarat has made Mumbai a prime transit point for illicit narcotics traders. Agencies monitoring narcotics are now focusing on the illicit market of precursor chemicals spread out across the country, added police sources.