Drug trade thrives in darknet

Drug traffickers have gone hi-tech and are using dark web, social media and crypto currency to carry on their activities clandestinely, reveals a police investigation following a drug bust

Updated - August 19, 2022 04:58 pm IST

Published - August 19, 2022 08:22 am IST - VISAKHAPATNAM

Illustration for The Hindu

Illustration for The Hindu | Photo Credit: Satheesh Vellinezhi

A few days ago, a team from the Fourth Town Police Station working in tandem with the Anti-Narcotics Cell of the City Police arrested five accused and busted a drug trade. The police also seized about 50 LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) blots and about 4.4 gm of white powder suspected to be MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) another variety of synthetic drug of the hallucinogen variant that is nicknamed in the drug world as Ecstasy or Molly.

This was a well-planned decoy operation, where the police team posed as potential buyers. But this did not happen without a deep dive into the drug world by the investigating team which led to the unearthing of a number of facts. The team, under the guidance of Commissioner of Police Ch. Srikanth, could understand the profile of the consumers, peddlers or traders, the modus of smuggling the drugs into the city and primarily how the consumers are contacted.

Social media and technology have been extensively used as most of the consumers and peddlers are engineering graduates or students from reputed engineering and other colleges, says Mr. Srikanth.

The arrest of another reported kingpin in the drug trade in the city, Girish Teja, revealed the free and unhindered use of social media, the dark web and exchange of crypto currencies.

It is through social media that the consumers in the city would contact Teja, through some known sources and code words. Teja’s alleged contact point was one Mohammed Sadiq Ali, a final year student of computer science engineering in a reputed college in Hyderabad.

Sadiq operated using the dark web and the browsers that are generally used in surfing the dark web.

Orders are placed in darknet markets, says Mr. Srikanth.

According to him, the investigation has revealed that the orders were placed in Delhi and parcels were delivered through courier services to Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The parcels come undetected and one can place orders from just 2 LSD blots to 100 plus blots.

The peddlers maintain e-brochures in their fictitious social media accounts, offering a plethora of drugs that range from Hash Oil to MDMA and LSD to ganja. They also offer combo offers and party packs, giving consumers a wide variety of choice and prices ranging from Rs.500 to Rs.5,000.

According to Mr. Srikanth, the accused convert Indian money to crypto currencies and transfer the payments to the main supplier through various facilitating websites. Consumers either pay through online bank transactions or using UPI apps.

The investigating officers not only tracked the social media accounts of the accused but also followed the financial trail to zero in on the kingpins, consumers and peddlers. A few are yet to be arrested in the case.

Addicts turn peddlers

It has been seen that many addicts of synthetic drugs and ganja have turned peddlers and the City Police have caught many such persons. The addicts, to fund their vices, procure ganja and weed oil (Hash Oil) from the Visakha Agency and transport them to places such as Goa and Bengaluru and in return smuggle in drugs such as LSD and MDMA. Most of them are students or young professionals and they need money to fund their addiction, which is primarily ganja.

As per a survey by the City Police, in the cases that were detected in 2021, about 127 people who were arrested were addicts turned peddlers in the age group of 25-35, and in 2022 so far about 46 falls in this category. In the 35-plus age group, about 51 such persons were arrested in 2021 and 20 so far in this year.

In arrests made under the NDPS Act in the last three years, about 788 were men and 33 were women.

Of the accused arrested in the last three years, 447 were in the 18-25 years age group, 224 in the 25-35 group and 107 in the 35-plus years category. About 47 juveniles in conflict with law were also taken into custody.

Coming to the demographic profile, the bulk of the arrests made were from the BPL segment who are primarily into smoking of ganja. The statistics of the last three years show that 449 arrests were from this segment, followed by 250 from the middle-class segment and 22 from the upper-class segment, and most of them were caught with high-profile synthetic drugs.

Many of the youth are found to be resorting to crimes such as vehicle thefts, chain snatching, extortion and even house break-ins, to fund their addiction.

In recent times, in at least 50% of the crimes cracked by the City Police, the motive was to fund their vices, which includes synthetic drugs and ganja.

To control the menace, the Commissioner of Police has set up an Anti-Narcotics Cell and a Cyber Cell. They have become necessary as smugglers have adopted a hi-tech approach. Both cells are now working in tandem and yielding results.

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