Targeting cartels, not just carriers

G. Anand
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Drug carriers to be under secret surveillance

The Customs and Central Excise Department will soon use the technique of “controlled delivery” of narcotic drugs to crack down on the smuggling of ketamine and heroin from India through air and sea routes to Kuala Lumpur and the Maldives respectively.

A top-level enforcer says that it is a method wherein illicit drug consignments and their carriers are “covertly flagged” in advance and allowed to proceed to the port of consignment under the secret surveillance of border enforcement agencies. Thus, foreign citizens smuggling drugs out of India will be caught and tried in their own countries.

The method, if successful, could help the law extend its arm beyond mere carriers and reach the international cartels profiting from illicit drug trafficking in south Asia.

Trust is vital

Success of controlled deliveries, particularly those involving “couriers,” requires trust and cooperation among officials of the border enforcement agencies in the three countries, which is being worked out.

Investigators say that such cooperation is essential in the context of intelligence reports that smuggling of heroin (in relatively small quantities) to the Maldives through at least two airports in south India is on the increase. The traffickers use a certain “vulnerable” section of Maldivian citizens, including women and teenagers, travelling to India for medical care and education to smuggle heroin back to the island nation.

Opium harvest up

In reciprocation, the traffickers underwrite the travel and other expenses of the “carrier.”

Investigators say carriers bound for the Maldives often secrete heroin packets in their body cavities. Enforcers say that there has been an at least 10 per cent increase in harvest in opium- growing regions in Afghanistan and this means “a potential surge in the street-level availability of heroin” in south Asia in 2013.

Officials say the Maldives is particularly vulnerable to heroin abuse and India was once source of supply. (A United Nations report said that around 20 per cent of the teenage population in the country was hooked on to the drug.) Customs enforcers say they will put in place by 2014 a computer-linked and secure “real0time monitoring system” whereby they will be able to share with their foreign counterparts advance information on passengers and freight moving among the three countries. The system will help border enforcers “profile and flag” suspected carriers and contraband consignments better and thus facilitate faster clearance of genuine passengers and cargo.

  • Crackdown on smuggling to Malaysia, Maldives

  • Foreign smugglers will be tried in their countries

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