HOW BIG CARTELS ARE AIR-DASHING DRUGS INTO CITY
Key international routes on the radar of multiple govt agencies as Delhi airport becomes main landing ground for narco hauls
AMID the daily commotion of passengers at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), there is an unseen scramble by sleuths of multiple government agencies these days.
This becomes intense when certain flights land on the tarmac. The scramble has been triggered by international narcotics gangs using Delhi as their transit hub, and frequently changing routes to escape detection, a Mail Today investigation has revealed.
“Drugs worth Rs100 crore have been seized from foreigners at the airport this year, up from Rs 80 crore in 2017. For the second consecutive year,
Delhi is ahead of all Indian airports in terms of drug seizures,” said a senior official.
Agencies that are involved in the crackdown are Customs, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Immigration, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Delhi Police. Special meetings are being held to map flight routes and increase surveillance.
“As per seizures in the 18 months, key air routes to Delhi include Brazil’s Sao Paulo via Ethiopia’s Capital Addis Ababa, Afghanistan via its Capital Kabul, and Brazil to Qatar’s Capital Doha/UAE’s Capital Abu Dhabi,” said Madho Singh, zonal director of NCB's Delhi unit.
“Abusers in Delhi demand cocaine that is mainly produced in Latin American countries. It is transported to Brazil and from there to Nigeria’s Lagos or Togo’s Capital Lome for packaging. From there, it comes to India. Heroin is coming from Afghanistan. Traffickers from Saudi Arabia and UAE also smuggle them in chocolates and check-in baggage,” Singh said.
Smugglers swallow capsules containing drugs and then don’t eat and drink during their journey. Capsules are later retrieved after carriers are given laxatives.
In September, NCB extracted 106 cocaine capsules from a 25year-old Brazilian woman’s stomach at Delhi’s airport. She told officials that her handler in Sao Paulo had asked her to reach a hotel in Karol Bagh and stay there till further orders. A Nigerian national was supposed to meet her. The woman had been promised USD 5,000 for successfully delivering the consignment.
Cocaine carriers create hidden cavities in their baggage. They also conceal it in food products and milk powder.
Customs officials say party drugs such as methaqualone, methamphetamine and pseudo ephedrine are generally carried personally by traffickers in secret cavities in books, paintings, machineries, combs, designer clothing, shoes, decoration items, skipping ropes, artefacts, soft toys, baby clothes and saree falls. They are also shipped through courier.
Customs officials at Delhi’s airport are undergoing training and using sniffer dogs for more stringent scanning.
Delhi Police officials at IGIA said it is not easy to scan luggage and individuals for meticulously hidden drugs, and most seizures are made on specific information. They also said sniffer dogs could help in more effective detection. "We take swift action once we receive tip-offs. After seizures, we take legal action against carriers," said Sanjay Bhatia, DCP (IGI Airport).
NOT JUST DELHI
To avert IGIA’s high security, smugglers also fly to other Indian cities and then come to Delhi. “Huge seizures have also been made at smaller airports such as Kochi, Trichy and Imphal,” said Singh.
CISF that manages airports also confirms this. “During interrogation, most smugglers admitted to shifting operations to smaller airports to avoid tighter security at Delhi and Bengaluru,” said a CISF spokesperson. The force says flights to India from South Africa, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Nigeria have seen maximum drug smuggling in the past two years.
Abusers in Delhi demand cocaine, produced in Latin American countries. Heroin is coming from Afghanistan — MADHO SINGH, ZONAL DIRECTOR OF NCB'S DELHI UNIT We take swift action once we receive tip-offs. After seizures, we take legal action against carriers — SANJAY BHATIA, DCP (IGI AIRPORT)