Sleuths hotly pursue ‘cocaine trail’ linked to Colombian cartels

New Delhi: Top Indian smuggling cartels linked with Colombian drug kingpins are being hotly pursued by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) following specific inputs of international agencies including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

“Crime syndicates run by Indian expatriates in Canada are the major go-betweens between foreign drug kingpins and Indian smugglers. After the recent seizure of 20 kg of cocaine in India, the NCB is working on important leads involving a few big time operators in Punjab and other states, and we hope to unmask them soon,” NCB Director Rakesh Asthana, said.

 Several Indo-Canadian organised crime groups linked with Colombian and Mexican drug mafia, active in the state of British Columbia are pushing consignments to Asia, including India. Many of these gangsters of Indian origin, involved in drug trafficking, hail from Punjab.

On a tip off from Australian Federal Police, top sleuths of NCB had busted one of the biggest ever drug cartels in India, linked with Canadian and Colombian drug lords, in December last year.

 “We worked on inputs from AFP and discovered that many shipments of cocaine reached Australia via Canada. The entire racket linked with so many countries had an Indian connection. As of now, several persons have been arrested. We are now zeroing in on the main operators in India,” said Asthana, who in his earlier stint in the CBI, had busted several important cases including multi-crore fodder scam.

As of now, NCB sleuths have extracted vital leads during interrogation of Indonesian smuggler Monica Raincoat, who was arrested from a posh south Delhi mall last year.

Raincoat worked with Akshinder Singh Sodhi, a key contact person of the cartel in India. Both, as per NCB investigations, worked for a major drug syndicate operating from Canada. The cartel was shipping consignments to India, Australia and a few other countries.

“I cannot share much information, as it is a sensitive probe. But I can assure that NCB is determined to smash operations of big time cartels based in India,” said Asthana, who is supervising a countywide crackdown on such crime syndicates involved in drugs.

The NCB boss, whose team had led to one of the biggest seizures of contraband narcotics in India revealed that in the international market, one kilogram of cocaine costs around Rs 5 crores.

“It’s an expensive drug and therefore it’s consumed by high society people. So while we hunt for drug traffickers in Punjab, Delhi or Uttarakhand, we keep a close tab on metros like Mumbai, Bengaluru or Delhi and Goa which are major distribution centres in India,” said Asthana, a senior IPS officer, regarded as one of the best investigators of high profile crimes.

 On involvement of underworld gangs like D-company and Chhota Rajan in pushing cocaine in India, he said that presently they are pursuing leads on cocaine trail, which links Canadian cartels with Indian groups, but still cannot rule out involvement of Mumbai underworld gangs, including D-company led by India’s most wanted fugitive Dawood Ibrahim, in such shady deals.

Reports of the NCB disclose that in 2019, a total of 2,448 kg heroin was seized compared to 1,258 kg in 2018. Similarly, in 2019, the total seizure of opium was 7,317 kg in India while in 2018, it was almost half of this at 4,307 kg. In 2019, the agency seized 58 kg of cocaine and in 2018, it was less than half at 35 kg.

Sources told IANS that Asthana’s pro-active approach against smugglers and hot pursuit of those who pile drugs at hundreds of hideouts spread across the country, enabled the NCB to double its seizures. However, narcotics experts are of the view that increasing amounts of seizures indicate that consumption and trafficking of drugs has increased in South Asian countries including India.

On May 18, Asia’s biggest ever drug bust in Myanmar suggested that international smuggling kingpins are seeing Southeast and South Asia as new destinations for distribution of drugs. Media revealed that on a tip off from UN agencies, Myanmar’s anti-drugs police seized 500 kg of crystal meth, 300 kg of heroin, and 3,750 methyl fentanyl from clandestine factories backed by narcocriminal syndicates. The drugs were to be shipped at various destinations in Asia and Asia-Pacific countries.

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