Anti-drug wings on gadget shopping spree to nab hi-tech, innovative smugglers
High-valued contraband substances, it is suspected, are being smuggled in large quantities with drug cartels deploying innovative methods to smuggle them into India, that are going undetected.
NEW DELHI: Innovations are undoubtedly helping in making lives better for citizens across the globe, but it’s also being used by lawbreakers to evade the law.
The Indian government; on a war footing. is in the process of arming its anti-narcotics wings with at least 10,000 portable hand-held analysers that will enable sleuths of the customs, border control guards, and personnel of various anti-drug cells to detect more than 400 categories of suspected controlled and banned substances.
These high-valued contraband substances, it is suspected, are being smuggled in large quantities with drug cartels deploying innovative methods to smuggle them into India, that are going undetected.
According to sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), three companies that supply these analysers were called for a demonstration in April this year before the nodal drug regulator Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), representatives of the state Anti-narcotic Task Forces (ANTFs) and others anti-drug wings including Directorate of Revenue Intelligence to demonstrate the capabilities of their equipment. This equipment, slightly bigger than the size of a regular novel, works on the principle of Raman’s Spectrometry and was first developed by UK and Swiss authorities some years back for effective drug policing and detection.
"The government has prioritized the acquisition of this equipment amidst instances of smugglers deploying innovative techniques which are extremely difficult to detect, except on the basis of intel inputs and tip-offs,” says an official of Delhi Customs.
While the three companies - Serstech, Thermofisher, and Rigaku - have given the demonstration of their products, the drug monitoring agencies have asked them to make modifications. “During demonstrations, the equipment showcased by the companies were unable to detect some of the most hot-listed drugs, for which we have asked them to make tweaks to make the gadget more effective, and report with the upgraded version at the earliest,” said an official of the NCB.
The acquisition of these analysers has become all the more important in the wake of a recent drug haul in which a young Kenyan woman was arrested this month at the Delhi airport for smuggling cocaine dissolved in two whiskey bottles she was carrying. The woman was intercepted following a tip-off after her arrival from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). A search resulted in the recovery of cocaine from the two bottles, worth approximately Rs13 crores.
Though this is just the second case since a Nigerian man was arrested in November last year with cocaine worth Rs 20 crore dissolved in sealed whisky bottles a senior officer in the Customs said: “We believe that this could have been popular modus operandi of inbound smuggler that has been going undetected due lack of proper equipment.”
Not only whisky bottles, of late officials of anti-narcotics wings have been detecting heroin and cocaine being smuggled in as consignment of salt, talcum powder, milk powder, tomato sauces packs, and tetra-packs of apple and pomegranate juice originating from Afghanistan.
India has been sandwiched between the Death (Golden) Crescent comprising Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan and Death (Golden) Triangle comprising Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar and has been flooded with drugs, especially heroin and methamphetamine, from these two regions. “Now African nations are being used as re-routing hubs,” says the MHA official.
Though according to the latest report by the NCB, drug trafficking through sea routes in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, is estimated to account for around 70% of the total illegal drugs smuggled into India, “there is a significant number of consignments which are being re-routed through African nations which are coming in undetected due to innovative means with young peddlers including students being engaged in it,” said the MHA official. The analysers, in the process of being procured, would definitely equip the anti-drug sleuths in a better way, he added.