Liquid cocaine: A new technique for smuggling drugs in India? Here's how

Jun 17, 2023 12:39 PM IST

On Thursday, a Kenyan woman was arrested at Delhi airport for smuggling cocaine dissolved in whiskey bottles she was carrying. And this is not only incident.

As traffickers and Indian law enforcement engage in a constant battle of wits, liquid cocaine has again emerged as a favoured technique for smuggling drugs, indicating a rising trend in its popularity.

DRI arrested a Nigerian man with liquid cocaine in whiskey bottles worth <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>20 crore in November last year.
DRI arrested a Nigerian man with liquid cocaine in whiskey bottles worth 20 crore in November last year.

On Thursday, a 25-year-old Kenyan woman was arrested at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi for smuggling cocaine dissolved in two whiskey bottles she was carrying. The accused was intercepted after her arrival from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) - from where most of the drug is sourced.

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A detailed search resulted in the recovery from her of two whiskey bottles with cocaine worth approximately 13 crore dissolved in them. The accused was arrested and the whiskey bottles containing cocaine were seized, the police said.

In April, a Tanzanian was arrested at the Delhi airport for smuggling cocaine by mixing it with liquor in whiskey bottles. The man was arrested based on profiling by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and customs. He, too, arrived from Addis Ababa and was followed from the deboarding gate.

In a similar incident, a Nigerian man was arrested at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in November last year with two whiskey bottles in which cocaine was dissolved in liquid, to make it difficult for law enforcement agencies to detect the contraband, while trafficking the drug to India.

The DRI, Mumbai, seized the bottles with ‘liquid cocaine’ worth 20 crore in the illicit market. The DRI had specific intelligence about narcotics being smuggled into India by a passenger who was flying from Lagos, Nigeria, to Mumbai via Addis Ababa. Accordingly, surveillance was mounted by a team of DRI officers at the airport.

Why liquid cocaine?

Liquid cocaine is made by dissolving the powder using water or other solvents and can later be converted back into a powder form. Cocaine is harder to detect in its liquid form than in its powder form.

According to officials, this method of smuggling is a rarity. Cocaine is among the most common drugs of abuse and imaginative techniques of smuggling cocaine through border controls have happened in other countries as well.

How to detect it?

A Narcotics Control Bureau official told The Times of India the UK and Switzerland have developed two techniques that will help customs officials establish the presence of contraband without opening the bottle.

“Cocaine was ingeniously dissolved in the liquid contained in the said bottles to make it extremely difficult to detect. This is a unique modus operandi busted by the DRI indicating the uphill task faced by the officers on a regular basis to check the drug inflow into the country,” said the official told the newspaper.

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