KOCHI: The fourth cocaine seizure from Kerala in the past six months is an indication of the growing trend of drug seizures across the country, hitting a new high in 2017.According to Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) data, as many as 132 cases of cocaine seizure were registered across India in 2017 in which enforcement agencies recovered as many as 69 kg. The corresponding figures from 2016 were 81 cases and 28 kg, respectively. In 2015, 100 cases were registered in which 113 kg were seized.
This year, until February 28, 10 cases were registered in which six kg of cocaine were recovered.NCB zonal director (Chennai) Bruno A credited enforcement activities for the large number of seizures.“The growing demand for cocaine shows that more and more people are able to afford it. We have become more alert and that’s why the number of seizures have spiked. Drug carriers have to realise that smuggling cocaine can attract a minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment,” he said.
Cocaine is extracted from coca leaf using solvents such as sulphuric acid and potassium permanganate, and turned into crystal form.The first and most abundant harvest of coca leaf is in March after the rainy season, the second is at the end of June, and the third in October or November.Even though enforcement agencies manage to catch a large number of drug carriers, they hit a roadblock when it comes to identifying the cartels employing them. In a majority of the cases, the kingpins are suspected to be from South American countries, especially Brazil.
“People involved in cocaine manufacturing and smuggling are compartmentalised, thereby preventing the detection of those running the drug cartel. It is the agents who engage the carriers who have no information about the cartel and people who placed the order. This is the reason why our investigation ends with the carrier,” he said.
Kerala witnessed two cases of cocaine seizure this year and four cases since October 2017. In January, a Filipina was arrested from Nedumbassery airport with 4.8 kg of cocaine. An El Salvador national was arrested with more than 1 kg of cocaine from the same airport this month.Of the four persons arrested since October 2017, three were from South America. As a result, the NCB has increased scrutiny on those arriving from the continent.
International drug cartels are focusing on airports in second-tier cities such as Kochi as a transit point, said NCB superintendent (Kochi) Venugopal Kurup.“In four cases of cocaine seizure, the drug was to be transported to Goa and New Delhi. In two cases, the carrier had no information about the person to whom the drug was to be handed over. Since the carriers did not have any information about the kingpin, we cannot confirm whether the same cartel was behind all these cases,” he said.
“We are monitoring people arriving from South American countries. But even Europeans are hired for drug trafficking as a Portuguese national was arrested with cocaine in Chennai,” the NCB officer added.