Syringes of the opioid painkiller fentanyl in an inpatient pharmacy.(Representational Photo/AP File)
Syringes of the opioid painkiller fentanyl in an inpatient pharmacy.(Representational Photo/AP File)

DEA, FBI to assist India in tracking drug smuggling networks

DEA will share with India current trends on synthetic opioids and their precursors’ production and trafficking pattern in South Asia as well as discuss avenues to increase information sharing to halt the production and trafficking of drugs
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Neeraj Chauhan
UPDATED ON NOV 24, 2020 09:19 AM IST

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States—which brought down many Colombian and Mexican narcotics syndicates like Pablo Escobar’s, Cali Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel, Tijuana Cartel and others—will discuss sharing intelligence as well as a joint mechanism to track and disrupt the money laundering associated with international drug smuggling networks with India’s lead anti-drugs enforcement agency—Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)—on Tuesday, people familiar with the development said.

Virtual assets, typically associated with transnational criminal organisations and illicit drug activities, will particularly be of interest to both sides, people cited above said.

The meeting is part of Indo-US Counter-Narcotics Working Group (CNWG), which was envisaged during President Donald Trump’s visit to New Delhi in February this year, will also dwell upon a bilateral counter-narcotics strategy and sharing of intelligence between both sides.

Apart from DEA, the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) are likely to attend the meet.

From India, NCB, Directorate of Revenue and Intelligence (DRI), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), ministry of health, department of revenue and ministry of external affairs (MEA) will be part of the virtual meet.

People cited above said that Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had agreed to a new CNWG that would improve cooperation against illicit drugs and synthetic opioids. “The idea is to enhance the current relationship between relevant Indian and US drug and law enforcement agencies through more regular and structured dialogue and practical cooperation. There is a need to combat the global manufacturing, marketing, movement, and financing associated with illicit drugs and precursors,” said an officer who didn’t want to be named.

The DEA will share with India current trends on synthetic opioids and their precursors’ production and trafficking pattern in South Asia as well as discuss avenues to increase information sharing to halt the production and trafficking of fentanyl, related analogues, and its precursors, along with other synthetic drugs. Fentanyl is an opioid used as pain medication and its increased smuggling has agencies worried.

The two sides will also update each other on domestic laws and regulations and discuss establishing public-private partnerships for monitoring online drug and precursor trade as well as public-private liaisons between regulatory authorities and producers of precursors chemicals, said a second officer.

The NCB has started a campaign to crack down on drug smuggling networks across the country and has identified several syndicates which operate from different parts of the country. In fact, the agency has estimated that heroin business in India is worth around Rs1,44,000 crore (approximately 19 billion US dollars) and there are around 20 lakh dependent users of this high drug in the country.

The agency is also cracking down on the drug network in Bollywood.

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