NEW DELHI: A 23-year-old female financial analyst earning nearly Rs 70,000 ($929.00) a month; three Netflix enthusiasts emulating their favorite characters from the popular series Narcos and Breaking Bad, ‘LSD King’ running his drug network from Bellary jail in Karnataka; a budding psychiatrist who wanted to spread love through drugs; and a Gujarati couple that switched to drugs trade after lock down hit their legit business.
These are among the 22 persons, which include 4 women, arrested by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in pan-India, simultaneous raids across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Assam, Delhi-NCR, Punjab, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Rajasthan and UP in connection with a case relating to drug trafficking over the darknet, with linkages to source countries like the US, UK, Netherlands, Poland, etc.
One NCB constable was also arrested on charges of having connived with the main accused in the case and for destruction of evidence.
A huge quantity of drugs was seized, including:
- 975 blots of LSD
- 1.55 kg of MDMA
- 130 gm psychotropic tablets
- 7.9 kg cannabis
- 6 gm heroin
- 315.8 gm charas (cannabis resin)
- 39.7 gm cannabis paste
- 2.5 gm liquid cannabis
- 16 alprazolam tablets
- 12 spasomoproxyvon capsules (pain med)
- 171 gm hashish chocolate
- 13 gm psilocybin
- 1.6 gm cocaine
- Rs 22.55 lakh cash ($2.5 million)
However, Rs 2 core ($265,000) in the form of cryptocurrency could not be seized.
While 21 arrested accused are in judicial custody and were refused bail, one was given interim bail to take an examination.
According to the NCB DDG, North Region Gyaneshwar Singh, it took the agency four months of painstaking investigation to bust three, new-generation, dark-web drug networks going by the names Dread, DNMIndia and Orient Express. All kinds of drugs were ordered through Whatsapp, Telegram, Instagram, Snapchat, Wicker etc; international suppliers reached on dark net; payments made via cryptocurrency or UPI platforms using one-time ID; and couriers like India Post, Swiggy Genie and WeFast engaged for delivering consignments with drugs hidden by the trafficker. The prime USP of the tailored trafficking was anonymity of the purchasers and sellers’ network.
DND Note: They did not actually “bust” dread. I’m pretty sure they’re referring to the subdread /d/DarknetMarketsIndia.
While the Orient Express was a Telegram-based group with around 300 drug consumers and peddlers and 6 verified vendors, DNMIndia was dark-web forum for review, rating and internal performance appraisal of India-based drug dealers. Foreign vendors would use this forum for authentication and supply. DNM or Dark Net Market India was an India-based web platform to sell and buy drugs, locate suppliers and buyers and assess quality of product.
The networks facilitated escrow deals and would share the drugs ‘menu’ with potential customers along with attractive offers.
The 22 arrested accused, many of them known to one another only through fake IDs, had some things in common – they are all young and belonged to the 18-35 years age bracket; most are educated, tech-savvy, and well-to-do professionals like software engineers, MBAs, financial analysts, musicians, though some have a criminal history; most come from broken families or were victims of abuse in childhood; almost all started out as drugs users but took up drug-dealing for easy money and occasionally for the thrill of dodging law enforcers; barring one case, their families had no idea about their involvement in the dangerous web of drugs and darknet activity.
The NCB got a whiff of the darknet drug syndicate after it identified and seized 44 post parcels at the Foreign Post Office in Kolkata. A lady, Tareena Bhatnagar, was identified and apprehended by NCB Kolkata.
NCB Delhi zonal unit joined in and an SIT was formed. Sarvo, a resident of Delhi, was identified as a receiver of one of the seized parcels. The trail further led to his associate Rahul Mishra, a sportsperson and Ashray Pandey, an engineer in Gurgaon.
Sarvo also revealed the name of Jasbir Singh, who he said was paid Rs 6 lakh ($600,000) by him in cryptocurrency. Jasbir, a resident of Mogra in West Bengal, was part of ‘The Orient Express’ and his family, an aunt, was aware of his drug dealings. Singh compromised a constable in NCB Delhi who helped his girlfriend in destruction of his mobile phone by throwing it in a lake. It was later discovered with the help of divers from NDRF.
Another of Jasbir’s girlfriends, Shradha Surana, a financial analyst, facilitated him in finance management and arranging addresses for importing drugs, apart from selling drugs to her clients through a WeFast courier boy.
Jasbir and Shraddha led NCB to Raghunath Kumar, who ran his drugs business from Bellary jail. He was an active reviewer of vendors on darknet platform @shoppersstop and also authored a training manual on darkdrugnet.
The Orient Express Group admin Naman Sharma, who went by ID @walterwhite, the main character from Netflix series ‘Breaking Bad’, revealed Md Aslam with ID @Chico, derived from Netflix series ‘Narcos’, and Parichay Arora were the owners of the group that had Jasbir, Shradha, Krunal Golwala and Dixita Golwala as members. The latter two from Surat would courier drugs hidden in bakery products to clients.
Subhasish Roy, with ID @jessepinkman, based on a character in ‘Breaking Bad’, is a fashion designer and used a rented apartment he shared with Parichay as a drug shop.
Other arrested accused include MBBS student and budding psychiatrist Aditya Reddy from Bangalore, call centre employee Devesh Vasa from Kolkata; Divyas Bhardeva, a budding artist with his own YouTube channel; Shakti Aggarwal, a college dropout; as well as Akash Mehra and Siddharth, both form affluent families in Delhi.