Effective screening system needed to single out foreigners indulging in drug trafficking, Devesh K. Pandey concludes…

The increasing involvement of foreign nationals in drug trafficking syndicates using Delhi as a transit point has become a matter of concern for enforcement agencies in the city. Investigations have revealed that the international drug cartels are employing people -- mostly women -- of South-East Asian origin as couriers in a bid to evade detection.

The interrogation of a Thai woman, who was arrested allegedly with a consignment of heroin at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport by the Customs on Thursday, has purportedly revealed that she was hired as a carrier by a syndicate run by African nationals. “It is relatively easy for people from this region to pass off security checks without raising much suspicion,” said an airport official. The Thai woman had allegedly managed to smuggle out at least two drug consignments in the past 18 months.

In the recent past, the Customs, the Delhi Police, the Narcotics Control Bureau and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence have busted many such rackets involving foreign nationals. Among those arrested were people from different parts of Africa, Thailand, Afghanistan, Nepal and Singapore. “African nationals form a large chunk of those arrested under the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act,” said another drug enforcement official. Most of those engaged in drug trafficking overstay their visit and have been found taking shelter in Delhi’s colonies like Uttam Nagar, Chhattarpur, Nawada and Munirka.

Many officials feel that while drug enforcement agencies concentrate more on catching suppliers and busting big syndicates, there is also a need to crack down on drug traffickers at the police station level. “At that level, credible intelligence on suspicious foreigners can be developed through beat constables as they remain well informed about the activities in their areas. Depending on the nature of the input, it can be shared with the department concerned. The police can also be more pro-active in tracking down the foreign nationals who overstay their visit,” said the official.

He said at present there was barely any coordination among different enforcement agencies that led to a communication gap, which was being exploited by the foreign nationals indulging in criminal activities. According to senior officials, another issue that requires attention is issuance of visas. “Concerted efforts should be made to find out from visa applicants the purpose of their visits. Their profiling should be done to make sure that the visa is granted only to legitimate visitors,” the official added. For more efficient drug enforcement, the agencies need to work in close coordination with each other, at least on a need-to-know basis, through prompt sharing of intelligence. Enforcement officials also feel that there should be an effective system of screening of foreign visitors to single out those suspected of indulging in organised crimes like drug trafficking and money laundering.