A drug racket busted in Hyderabad has found that school and college students, besides techies and members of the film industry, were buying and using drugs in a network that used social media to spread. Ten people have been arrested since the weekend. Police have found the suppliers of imported party drugs, whose ringleader hasn’t been identified yet, had formed WhatsApp groups with members mostly students of premier international schools and colleges.
“Initially the peddlers established contact through word of mouth. That person would introduce the peddler to others. This way they created large groups of consumers who kept in touch through social media groups,” director (enforcement) Akun Sabharwal told The Indian Express Thursday.
“We knew they had a lot of minor customers,” he said, “but based on the messages we found in the mobile phones seized from the 10 persons arrested so far, we have concluded that students from at least 25 premier schools and another 20 top colleges were customers of this gang that was selling LSD and MDMA. It is shocking.” LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), commonly called acid, and MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, called molly or molecule, were being imported from Chicago, police said. A dot or square of LSD costs
Rs 3,000, a gram of MDMA up to Rs 6,000.
Among the 10 arrested was Calvin Mascarenhas, a hotel management graduate who had once been arrested for possession of ganja and who, police say, is now a full-time peddler who supplies to students and other clients. In September 2013, after Mascarenhas was first arrested, the Task Force of Hyderabad Police registered a case not only for possession of ganja but also for selling it. Mascarenhas, who claimed the second was a false charge, was released on bail after 48 days. His father took loans to pay his son’s legal expenses and bail bond, and blamed him for bringing financial ruin to the family, which hails from Goa and is settled in Mangalore.
Calvin Mascarenhas, a B Tech and hotel management graduate from Mangalore, was working with an MNC bank in Hyderabad and, as a hobby, played the guitar on weekends at at Coco’s Bar and Grill at Banjara Hills. He was bitter with the police, alleging they had framed him in the ganja selling case.
By the time the Telangana Excise Department (Enforcement) arrested him Saturday for involvement in the larger racket, he had lost his job at the bank, worked at three other places and was unemployed. Police said he was himself high on LSD when they caught him. “He is a user of drugs and after being interrogated for eight hours, he revealed everything,’’ Sabharwal said. Seven aides of Masacrenhas — Mohd Abdul Wahid, Mohd Abdul Quddush, Kundan Singh, Aman Naidu, Nikhil Shetty, Ravi Kiran and Brendon Ben — were arrested then, followed by two others Thursday.
Officials said that besides students, consumers included techies with MNCs, other professionals and people in the film industry. “It is the scale and size of involvement of schoolchildren that is worrying. I have school-going children and I am very worried,” Sabharwal said. Officials who spoke with some parents found they had been giving thousands of rupees as pocket money without doubting where it went. “Often the kids bluffed about where they spent large sums of money. In some cases they misused credit or debit cards given to them. Some students borrowed heavily. Each raised money to buy drugs somehow or the other,” Sabharwal said.
“Luckily, there was no sexual abuse involved. It was a one-off case in which one student sent her nude photo requesting an LSD dot in exchange. The peddlers had no resorted to sexual abuse yet,” he said. The student had sent her photo to Shetty, who passed it on to Mascarenhas. Policemen who had infiltrated the gang as customers had been watching the gang members for several days. “We established the chain and structure of the group. That is why we could seize nearly 800 LSD dots/squares costing nearly Rs 30 lakh, and arrest 10 persons so far,’’ an official said.
Officials have spoken to or counselled at least 30 students and their parents. Officials who set up a helpline requesting victims to call have been flooded with calls since 48 hours. “Most of the calls are from minors who are giving us information about the identities and whereabouts of peddlers. Based on tip-off by some students to the helpline, we have arrested two of the 10 persons. On one tip-off we seized an SUV full of ganja. Students are calling and saying if you go to this place at this time you will find a man selling drugs. One tip-off was about ganja chocolates being sold for Rs 5 each in a shop at Nizamabad,’’ an official said.