In March this year, a parcel from Australia was returned to the foreign office of Indian Posts in Mumbai. The parcel contained one kilogram of methamphetamine – the drug meth – with the sender’s address in Mumbra in Thane district.
Security agencies allowed the parcel to be sent back to Mumbra, to try and catch those operating the drug ring.
To their disappointment, no one turned up to claim the parcel and the probe hit a dead end. All the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) could do was to seize the drug.
This is one of the many instances the NCB has come across recently, where the ingenuous postal service and courier firms, both government and private, are being used by the international drug mafia to send their consignment overseas, officers said.
What is even more worrying, said officers, most of the cases came to light only after the drugs were found in checks abroad.
In the state, in the last one year, 22 cases were reported of which six are from Pune while the rest are from Mumbai and Thane – prominently the Andheri post and the one at Diva being used to send Heroin overseas.
According to sources, in 2015, the maximum quantity seized overseas has been 800 grams of heroin, while the lowest has been 150 grams. 10 gram of heroin costs around Rs3,000. This is after its cost came down following the increase in demand for Mephedrone (MD). MD continues to be much in demand despite the central government banning it.
“Most of the parcels have been caught in England, Canada, Germany and some of the African countries this year. The narcotics are smuggled in small quantities, so authorities do not get too suspicious,” said an IPS officer who did not wish to be named.
Apart from the city, Delhi and Chennai have seen cases of drugs being smuggled in posts.
In December 2014, a person of African origin was held in Chennai, when he was allegedly attempting to smuggle two kg of pseudoephedrine and 100 gram of heroin, concealed in three cartons, to South Africa and Guinea through the government postal system. The seized drugs were valued at Rs 20 lakh in the international market.
According to agencies fighting narcotics, some major international drug cartels have come upon this way to smuggle drugs, where the risk of one of their members found carrying drugs is minimal.
Why the drug mafia prefer postal service
In India, under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, possession of the contraband is a strong point to convict an accused. When drugs are being posted, physical possession is minimal, said a former ACP who has worked in the ANC.
International outbound parcels seized by Narcotics Control Bureau/Customs:
In 2012- 92
In 2013- 134
In 2014- 137
Other methods to smuggle drugs overseas:
* Ships’ cargo: Drugs are often hidden in cargos of ships to smuggle them overseas. They are carried in drums of oil and other lubricants. As Mumbai is a hub of port activities, drugs are smuggled in from countries like Afghanistan and then sent overseas
* Vehicles being exported: Drug packets are hidden in the gearbox, dickey and other cavities of Indian vehicle models popular in African countries
* Hand delivery: Is the most common method
* Forcing someone to be the carrier: Cartels ask people to carry drugs in return for favours. At times, the contraband is slipped into someone else’s luggage without informing them.
Cases detected by Mumbai police:
* November 2014: City police’s ANC arrested a Nigerian national. 2.5kg Ephedrine was seized from his possession. The drug was to be shipped to an African country hidden in bicycle seats, through a Dongri-based courier firm. After this incident, top cop Rakesh Maria asked policemen to develop contacts in courier firms
* September 2014: The Worli ANC caught two people, including a courier firm employee, with two cartons containing 34 towels sprinkled with Ephedrine. The duo told the police a Colaba dealer had given them the consignment, to be sent to the Philippines.
Narcotics seized by NCB and Customs in Mumbai in 2014
* November 25: A parcel was intercepted at the foreign post office and 2.394 kg of pseudo ephedrine seized. The drug was concealed in a parcel of filament yarn spools. The suspected destination drug was Zimbabwe
* September, 10: 280 kg of Ketamine was seized at a courier company. The drug was concealed in T-shirts. A Nigerian national was arrested. The suspected destination drug was South Africa
* September 12: 516 grams of an opaque liquid, purported to be Cocaine, was seized from the premises of a courier company. The drug was concealed in a shock absorber. The suspected source of the seized drug was Colombia
* July 16: 2kg Ephedrine seized at an Andheri courier firm office. The drug was concealed in the parcel of pen boxes, and was being shipped to South Africa
* June 20: 3.025kg of Ketamine found in a parcel at the premises of a courier company. The drug was concealed in parcels of metal shafts and vests. The suspected destination of the seized drug was South Africa.