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Apple trucks, dark web, science post-grads helped flood Mumbai with drugs in 2017, say police

Anti-Narcotics Cell made record drug seizures last year after they figured out the sources of the contrabands

mumbai Updated: Jan 17, 2018 16:43 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times
In 2017, the total haul included 782gm of cocaine, 2kg of heroin and 1,525 LSD dots, and the value of the seized contraband touched Rs12.55 crore.

The Mumbai police discovered three key ways that drugs were making their way into the city in 2017 – through apple trucks, some post-graduates with chemistry degrees and the internet. This helped the Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) chalk out their strategies and mop up some notorious drug cartels that were targeting college campuses.

The drug busts also led to a record drug haul in 2017.

The first discovery was the foray of two highly-qualified individuals, both chemistry majors, into the narcotics business. In early 2017, the ANC came upon two individuals who had set up factories that manufactured the deadly synthetic party drug, mephedrone (known as MD on the streets), and were pushing them in large quantities into the city without coming under the radar.

The second discovery was that drug syndicates in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) were using apple trucks coming to the city to transport hashish, or charas, which would be hidden in the fruit cartons.

“Both discoveries changed the way we were looking at the drug supply-and-distribution network in the city,” said Shivdeep Lande, deputy commissioner of police, ANC, who re-strategised the ANC operations after taking over in October 2016. “Once we identified the sources, the task of cleaning up the streets became easy.”

His claims are not without reason. Last year, the ANC carried out operations even outside Mumbai, busting two MD manufacturing units, near Pune and Hangal in Karnataka.

Both units were being run by chemistry majors who had gone rogue. The two raids together yielded around 25kg of MD. More importantly, the action crippled the network that had ensured a constant supply of MD, after the drug was included in the list of banned substances three years ago under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

The ban had made its transportation cumbersome and as risky as the smuggling of synthetic drugs from South America. This, in turn, had led to the establishment of local manufacturing units.

After the ANC action, the police started keeping a close watch on manufacturing units in the city’s outskirts, and raided a manufacturing unit in Dahanu, hurting the supply further.

The scarcity of MD, following repeated police action, prompted charas smugglers to up their game, and high-quality charas started getting peddled in school and college campuses in small pouches as ‘herbal products’, often to unsuspecting youngsters, the police said.

The ANC caught on. “More than street peddling, we set our eyes on the main conduits in the larger supply network,” Lande said. The efforts paid off when they arrested one Haji Baba, a septuagenarian mafia head from J&K, who was bringing high-quality charas to the city in apple cartons, from Udhampur and Anantnag districts.

His interrogation led to the arrest of two more important conduits from Srinagar and a record haul of 53.74kg charas, as against the six kg of the contraband confiscated in 2016.

The police made another important discovery — that the internet drug network was thriving and that it was using cryptocurrency.

In March 2017, five persons, including two college students from Dahisar, a television serial producer and an estate agent were arrested with LSD stamps worth Rs70 lakh that they had procured through couriers from the United States. LSD stamps, popular among party-goers, are basically small strips of blotting paper on which liquid LSD is spread. The strips are printed with different images that give them their names, and also signify the type and the strength of dosage.

The gang of five had been supplying the recreational drug to celebrities and in Bollywood party circuits regularly and since a long time. The accused used to place the orders over websites in the dark web, where the payment was made in bitcoins. “This is one area we are going to focus on more this year,” Lande said.

In 2017, the total haul included 782gm of cocaine, 2kg of heroin and 1,525 LSD dots, and the value of the seized contraband touched Rs12.55 crore, more than 10 times the haul in 2016, which was valued at Rs1.86 crore.

First Published: Jan 17, 2018 16:43 IST