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How African drug peddlers in Mumbai are using fictitious addresses to avoid prosecution

According to the ANC, drug peddlers, foreigners in particular, often get evasive about their places of stay following their arrest under the stringent NDPS Act.

mumbai Updated: Sep 22, 2017 13:17 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times
Mumbai news,drug peddlers,crime
(Picture for representation)

Does Platform No 1, Kurla railway station, Mohammadali Road or Mohammadali Market seem like a genuine postal address? That’s what the Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) sleuths were given after they rounded up three drug peddlers of African origin, recently.

The three drug peddlers were among six persons arrested from different parts of the city during a series of drug busts made in a special drive by the ANC.

While Naofar Samuel Inoamaobi, 28, was apprehended with a pouch of mephedrone near Bandra terminus, Okafore Ikeuchiwkwa Igwedima, 21, and Ugochukwu Chistian, 43, were caught while waiting to trade cocaine at a popular pub at Worli. As the police found no identity documents on them, they were asked to give their residential addresses while registering the First Information Reports (FIRs). While Nafoar tried to hoodwink the police by claiming that he lived on the platform at Kurla railway station, Okafore and Ugochukwu also claimed that they were homeless and lived on the footpath at Mohammad Ali Road.

The ANC were not surprised at their brazenness, as drug peddlers, foreigners in particular, often get evasive about their places of stay following their arrest under the stringent Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances(NDPS) Act, that could send them behind bars for lifetime.

However, law enforcement agencies could ill afford to be tough with them. “They misuse their privileges as foreigners to stonewall investigation and try to subvert the process of law,” lamented a senior ANC official while requesting anonymity.

The official’s claims are not without reasons. At present a whopping 152 persons arrested under various drug-related offences in the city are absconding. 43 of them are foreign nationals. In fact, an analysis of these cases by the ANC suggests that a majority of these absconders had given false (or fictitious) residential addresses at the time of their arrest. “Once they came out on bail, no one knew where they went. As the local addresses given by them were false, there is little chance of them ever getting caught again,” the official said.

However, the impediment has not come on the way of the ANC stepping up its efforts in tracing the absconders. Deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Shivdeep Lande of ANC has formed a special squad with the specific objective of bringing the absconders to justice. “In the last couple of months, 7 such absconders have been apprehended,” Lande said, while informing that Ugochukwu, who was arrested from Worli, was from the list of the 152 absconders. “Now he will face trial,” he added.

Meanwhile, the senior ANC official said that the problem of absconders in drug cases, especially foreigners, could be avoided to a large extent if the local police strictly followed the process of mandatory registration of tenants at the time of renting out their flats. “There is a clear-cut directive for landlords to inform the local police while renting out flats to tenants under the lease and license agreement. That will create fear in the minds of the tenants to not indulge in criminal activities, as there is fear of getting caught.

“However, the directive is not being followed properly,” the official said, adding, “As a result, the tenant gets involved in petty crimes before graduating to serious offences like drug peddling.”

Senior lawyer Swapnil Patil, practicing as a defence lawyer in the NDPS court, said that the tenants as well as landlords are to be equally blamed for the illegality. “Foreigners, especially Africans, who come to the city are mostly from an impoverished background. Often as many as 6-7 persons live in a small 1BHK so as to share the rent. Landlords cash in on the situation by charging three times rent, and that is the reason they don’t enter into a lease and license agreement,” Patil claimed.

First Published: Sep 22, 2017 13:08 IST