DRI unearths drug smuggling racket from Mumbai to US,UK

MUMBAI: The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has unearthed a racket involving smuggling of Alprazolam, a psychotropic drug, from Mumbai to the US and UK. DRI officials, acting on information, raided Allied Air Express and two premises in Mira Road and seized 16 lakh tablets valued at Rs 57 lakh, officials said. The drugs were routinely shipped once orders were placed though call centres, using the deep web, commonly referred to as ‘darknet’.

Alprazolam is a psychotropic substance under the NDPS Act and its possession without a licence for import, export or manufacture is an offence.

Eight persons, including Allied Air Express owner Manjeet Singh, have been arrested. Singh, the mastermind, used to be a courier boy who stumbled upon the business idea after years of delivering medicines. The orders were processed through two call centres in Ambernath and Chandigarh, officials said.

An official said requirements were passed on to Allied Air Express, which procured from dealers and manufacturers in Sangli, Ludhiana and Agra. “The drugs would be packed in courier covers, sent to Delhi and then exported as health samples by Speed Post,” said a DRI official. Proprietors of the three companies have gone underground since the racket was busted. Singh had a trusted courier operator in Delhi, officials said. Singh has been operating for 10 years but the business grew from 2009, officials said. “There is no stringent checking of export consignments, making it easier for consignments to pass without hurdles,” the official added.

The rules are stricter in the US and UK, where procuring such medicines without a valid prescription is impossible. “So customers began procuring them from India. Here, it is easy to manipulate and drugs are offered cheaper,” an official said. The buyers, from all age groups, operate through the network with restricted access used chiefly for illegal transactions. “We are verifying if the centres called people abroad who genuinely purchased drugs online and asked about requirements of Alprazolam,” an official said. DRI also seized four vehicles, including an Audi and Range Rover.
Food and Drug Administration commissioner Harshadeep Kamble said the need for stringent guidelines for online pharmacies was strongly felt. “We are coming up with guidelines. It requires inputs from the IT department as Internet plays a pivotal role,” he said, adding that the department had received several complaints about the misuse of online pharmacies.
Traditional chemists have been demanding stringent regulation for online sale of medicines. “With the Internet, it’s difficult to trace the face behind an order. It is very easy for abusers to manipulate rules, create a fake prescription and order any amount of drugs,” said All-India Organization of Chemists & Druggists (AIOCD) president J S Shinde.
Top