15,000 LSD blots seized, 6 arrested as NCB busts darknet-based drug network
Initial investigation has revealed that the LSD blots and imported marijuana were sourced from the United States, Poland and the Netherlands.
New Delhi: The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has seized around 15,000 LSD blots, and arrested six people suspected to be part of a nationwide drug trafficking racket operational through the dark web, the agency said on Tuesday.
Besides 14,961 LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) blots, the federal agency said, it has also seized around 2.5kg imported marijuana and ₹4.65 lakh in cash over the last one week. This is the largest-ever seizure of LSD — a psychedelic drug —in a single operation in the country over the last two decades for which records are available, NCB officials said.
Initial investigation has revealed that the LSD blots and imported marijuana were sourced from the United States, Poland and the Netherlands, NCB said.
Officials familiar with the matter said that six suspects were arrested over the last one week from Goa, Delhi, Noida (Uttar Pradesh), Kerala, and Rajasthan. Citing ongoing probe, the agency did not reveal the identity of the suspects. All the arrested are between 22 and 28 years old and do not have a prior criminal record, officials said.
NCB deputy director general Gyaneshwar Singh said the agency had received inputs of drug trafficking, primarily LSD, across India by traffickers using darknet or dark web, following which a special investigation team (SIT) was formed to identity the cartel.
“The team started intensive technical and field surveillance operations through cyber patrolling of social media sites. During this activity, we tracked a boy from Goa, who studies at a private university in Noida. During questioning, he said he had been ordering LSD on an app/ private messenger called WICKR,” Singh said.
“A vendor on WICKR was identified and suspected to be operating from Delhi-NCR region. We then arrested a Delhi resident, who was trying to courier LSD blots to his contact in Kashmir. Based on his interrogation, we arrested a girl from Delhi. Though we did not seize anything from her, she led us to a major darknet-based drug vendor operating with a virtual identity whom she identified as her accomplice from Jaipur, Rajasthan,” he added.
The arrested Jaipur resident from whom a bulk of the LSD blots were recovered told the NCB sleuths that he had ordered the drug from dark web and revealed about a similar consignment that was sent to Pune, Singh said.
NCB officials then visited the India Post Office at MIDC in Pune’s Bhosari area and recovered 5,006 blots. Their questioning then led the NCB sleuths to other suspects, Singh said.
“This network operated virtually, and the payments were made in crypto currency and crypto wallets. The buyer and the seller did not have any physical contact,” he added.
NCB officials said the mastermind of the cartel, the man arrested from Jaipur, was operating since 2020. He quit his job during the Covid-19 pandemic and started working as the drug net vendor full time, they added. “The woman arrested in the case is the girlfriend of one of the accused. Except these two, the others did not know each other. They did not even know their real names,” Singh said.
The officer said that the government has fixed the commercial quantity of LSD as 0.1 gram. “When you cut a revenue stamp into two halves, one half painted with LSD is called one blot. About 4-5 blots, that weigh 0.1 gram make for commercial quantity. This is how dangerous the drug is. It can be easily hidden inside a book or a packet and no one will even know that the person is carrying such a dangerous drug,” Singh added.
Each LSD blot costs around ₹4,000- ₹8,000 depending on the quality of paper, its thickness and brand name. Officials said the current lot of the seized LSD blots are of Gama Goblin variety, which is believed to be sourced from Poland.
“Each LSD cartel has a specific brand and the price is different. The Gama Goblin variety has a common pattern on each blot. The drug users and vendors in the market know it. There are other varieties called Holy Spirit of Asura, which have the faces of Lord Shiva and Buddha,” an investigating officer said.
LSD is a potent hallucinogenic drug, without any colour, taste or smell, NCB said. It is painted or dipped into stamps and licked or swallowed by users.
“…It affects judgement and behaviour and is extremely harmful,” NCB said in a statement.
Singh said the consumption of LSD in India has become popular over the years, especially among the youth and students. “India has become a hub. The source of LSD is in European countries. We will take up the matter with drug enforcement agencies of those countries. These cartels send the drugs to Delhi using courier or post. It is then shipped to other states,” Singh said.
NCB also freezed bank accounts of the six suspects, which collectively had around ₹20 lakh. Officials said they are tracking a second cartel running their operation on the dark net.
In the last two years, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has armed the NCB with several initiatives to achieve the mission laid out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of making the country drug-free by 2047. Some of the key initiatives include — approval to open four new regional offices Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Chennai and Guwahati in addition to the existing three in Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi. The MHA has also sanctioned 425 new posts, which is an increase of almost 38% of the current sanctioned strength — 1,100 — of the NCB.
In the last two years, at least 40 people operating on different dark-net platforms, such as DNM India, Dread and groups on Telegram (one group named the Orient Express) have been arrested for trafficking drugs.
Congratulating the NCB team, home minister Amit Shah tweeted on Tuesday, “Realising PM @narendramodi Ji’s vision to create a drug-free India, the NCB team has busted an international narcotics syndicate and seized 15,000 blots of LSD drug. I congratulate the NCB team on this achievement.”