NCB busts DarkNet-based narcotics network which used cryptocurrency

Union Home Minister Amit Shah is directly supervising the bureau's operations against drug cartels.

During an 11-month operation in 2021-22, the NCB registered 47 cases, arrested 40 individuals, and confiscated drugs and cash I Representational Photo

According to sources, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has uncovered an international criminal syndicate involved in drug trafficking through the DarkNet and cryptocurrency. The group had connections in several countries, as well as multiple states in India.

The bureau is carrying out operations against drug cartels under the direct supervision of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, pursuant to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to put an end to narcotics trade in the country, they said.

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The gang had linkages in the US, Netherlands and Canada, and in states of West Bengal, Gujarat, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Assam, the sources said.

It was busted in a first of its kind operation that detected and dismantled the drug market on the Darknet and on social media run by anonymous and professional traffickers, and home delivery network, they said.

The modus operandi of the drug traffickers included the use of Darknet, cryptocurrency, digital media, UPIs and fake KYC documents as well as post and courier services, the sources said.

Consequent to strategic and operational planning, during the operation, spanning over 11 months, 47 cases were registered, 40 people arrested and a variety of drugs and cash seized by the NCB in 2021-22, they said.

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The highlight of the operation was the coordination with foreign drug liaison officers, and excellent coordination among various zonal units of the NCB and state police forces for simultaneous operations, the sources said. National Disaster Response Force divers were also used for retrieving crucial evidence from deep waters.

For excellent investigation, three NCB officers were awarded the Union Home Minister’s Medal for Investigation, the sources said.

In Ludhiana, the NCB has also busted a “basket” case having international drug racket links in Dubai, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Seventeen people were arrested, including kingpins, traffickers, white-collar criminals, two Afghan heroin processing experts and members of the alleged Jaggu Bhagwan Puria gang. The seizure in the case included about 34.5 kg of heroin, 5.5 kg morphine, 0.6 kg opium, 23.6 kg narcotics powder, acetic anhydride, bullets and magazines.

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Two heroin processing labs were also busted, the sources said.

Three different modes of smuggling of heroin — sea route through Mundra port, land route through Attari-Wagah border and the international border — were used by this syndicate.

The NCBs financial investigation has also identified Hawala network money payment channels and a group of companies involved in it.

The identified assets include 45 properties, many front businesses, including liquor brands, real estate, pubs and restaurants and 190 bank accounts.

So far, the NCB has recovered about Rs 4 crore drug money. It has also frozen 35 properties, 24 bank accounts worth Rs 32 crore. The NCB is looking at freezing at least Rs 50 crore worth of assets, the sources said.

(With agency inputs)