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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Delhi emerging as global transit hub for drugs by Courier & Post

India's geographical location, huddled in between the neighbouring golden triangle of Thailand-Myanmar-Laos and the golden crescent of Afghanistan-Pakistan, the regions fuelling the illicit drug trade, was always an attractive destination for traffickers in the global narcotics smuggling. It turns out now that the capital city of Delhi is fast becoming the favourite transit area for international transshipment from high-end synthetic drugs to street-used ganja, charas. And the long-exploited mode of shipment through couriers is becoming the preferred method of smuggling drugs.

This year itself, the Delhi unit of Narcotics Control Bureau has intercepted as many as 28 cases from the total of 47 cases, containing consignments of Charas, Heroin, Cocaine, Cannabis and Methaqualone Amphetamine mailed through private courier companies and the Indian Postal Service. That's an average of two cases per month, a three fold jump from the previous year's seizure, which had seven such instances of Heroin and Cocaine hidden in parcels. In 2014, there were 48 cases all over India that used couriers or parcels to transmit drugs.

The use of private couriers or postal services is a modus operandi used by global drug smugglers to avoid. And India figures repeatedly as a major South Asian country in international trafficking route. According to the 2014 report of the International Narcotics Control Board – an independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions -- India reported seizures of psychotropic substances like methaqualone, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and Ketamine delivered through the mail destined for Australia and Malaysia.

Traditional drugs like Heroin and Opium are trafficked from Afghanistan into India via Pakistan, through road ways like Attari-Wagah border and then onward to Delhi. For further shipment in Europe, West Asia and America, smugglers depend on couriers. In the last 5 years, there is increasing trend of incoming parcel consignments of Meth and Cocaine originating from Latin American countries and outbound packages of hashish, opium and cannabis from India to international market.

Drug smuggling through parcel or mail in India, experts say is relatively easier. "Regulations for shipment of packages is not highly monitored, due to lack of scanners and high dependence on random checking. Plus, the penalty or punishment if caught is not a serious deterrent, leading the big guys in smuggling to make use of individual peddlers to do the job,'' says R N Srivastava, additional director general of National Academy of Customs Excise & Narcotics, who has studied the global, national and regional drug trafficking trends.

Foreign nationals particularly from African countries and locals from low-income background are the most vulnerable recruits to be trapped as drug couriers. Peddlers are lured with money to provide their identity documents or forged papers are prepared using their identity and address while sending consignments. This year, the Delhi unit arrested 7 individuals for their complicity in sending drug consignments through couriers. They include 5 Indian nationals including a woman and 3 Nigerians.

While smuggling of drugs by courier has become rampant recently, the quantities intercepted remain comparatively small. On an average the seizures intercepted were in small quantities heroin and cocaine being less than a kilogram, hashish between 5-10 kg and 3083 tablets of Methaqualone. These are usually hidden in the cavities or sharply masked under the cover or statues of Indian deities, religious books which smugglers believe will be overlooked or is less suspicious for the staff at courier companies. The frequent attempts of using mail and parcels, has led the Indian Postal Service to tighten its scrutinizing process. It has made it mandatory for senders of international couriers to provide identity documents such as passport or Aadhar card.

Officials at the NCB, by their own admission say that the high number of cases this year is reflective of successful interception by its intelligence officials, where as the real number of drugs sent through mail services within and outside India could be much higher. ``We are imparting training to private courier franchises and the government agencies on how to identify and what to look for while dealing with parcels. There is much more awareness among the staff at courier and postal offices to be alert and this has helped us in high interception,'' says Rohit Sharma, Delhi zonal director, NCB.