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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Monitoring dark web helps Bengaluru police restrict flow of synthetic drugs

In January this year, the police seized LSD worth Rs 1.30 crore as a result of constant monitoring of activities on dark web.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru |
Updated: August 16, 2021 12:44:06 pm
The Bengaluru police seized 0.987 kg of cocaine from 17 cases so far in 2021. (Representational)

In January this year the Bengaluru police carried out its biggest ever seizure of the synthetic drug LSD or acid when it arrested two businessmen – one from Salem and another from Bengaluru – and found 9310 LSD strips valued at over Rs 1.30 crore.

The single LSD catch in January 2021 was nearly twice the amount of LSD seized by the Bengaluru police between 2018 to 2020. The secret behind the large seizure is a small, informal unit created in the Bengaluru police to watch the dark web for illegal activities – like drug transactions.

The seizure of a large LSD consignment in January was a result of weeks of watching the activities of an alleged Indian peddler from Salem identified as C Balaji – who was procuring large quantities of acid from suppliers in Europe via the dark net using crypto currency and then dispatching the smaller quantities sought by retailers in an various parts of the country.

“The LSD purchased via dark web was being dispatched from Salem to buyers sitting in places ranging from Delhi to Kanyakumari. We kept a watch on the movement of a drug parcel – through the postal service – from Salem to a buyer in Bengaluru and carried out arrests,” police sources said.

The Bengaluru police initially learned about large supplies of LSD coming into the city via parcels from the Salem region in Tamil Nadu from Rahul Tulasiram, a 28-year-old businessman who was arrested in the city for selling LSD based on local information gathered by the police. The arrest revealed that supplies were being received by Tulasiram from an unknown source in Tamil Nadu following transactions on the dark net that could not be traced easily by the police.

A small unit of the police working on tracking activities on the darknet soon established contact with the supplier, placed an order and kept a vigil over a post office in Salem from where the consignments were being dispatched. The vigil led to the arrest in January of C Balaji, 48, a businessman from Tamil Nadu who was allegedly procuring the LSD on the dark net from Europe and selling it to intermediaries in various parts of India.

“He was procuring large quantities from a supplier based abroad through the dark web. Synthetic drugs are not detected very easily in consignments and so he was able to receive them. With the operations going undetected he was emboldened and started finding more customers,” sources said.

The small unit to track dark web activities was created in the Bengaluru police system late last year by a few officers with technical knowledge of the internet and its workings after police found that a lot of trafficking of synthetic drugs like LSD and MDMA/ecstasy occurs on the dark web.

“Using sites like Empire Market, Silk Route, Drug Board and other sites suspects are importing various kinds of drugs by paying with Bitcoins,” the Bengaluru police commissioner Kamal Pant said late last year following the arrest of a gang procuring drugs via the dark web.

In July this year the commissioner said on social media that police teams arrested a foreign national and 10 college students for drug trafficking after the “accused were procuring drugs from the dark web through an instant messenger application Wickr”. The police reported a seizure of 60 grams of weed oil, 1.1 kg of ganja, 127 gm of MDMA and 7.8 gm of cocaine in the July seizure.

The Bengaluru police have been on a mission to curb drug trafficking in the city over the last two years and this has resulted in large seizures – 3912 kg in 2020 and 2545 kg in 2021 – of mostly ganja and synthetic drugs like MDMA, LSD – compared to 764 kg in 2018 and 1053 kg in 2019.

One of the early cases where the police found the usage of the dark net for procuring drugs was following the arrest of a gang linked to a notorious hacker Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki, 25, in 2020.

The police probe in the case found that the hacker used cryptocurrency to buy drugs from the dark web on instructions from his associates like a construction company owner in Bengaluru.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai in his first interaction with senior police officers since becoming the CM on July 28 told the police that “gambling, dark web and other illegal activities must be controlled without making any compromises”. “Our fight against narcotics and drugs will continue. Strict action to be taken in all districts regarding the matter,” he said.

The dark web is a portion of the Internet which is not accessible through search engines where anonymous activities are carried out. The dark net is a market place for illegal activities like the sale of drugs, stolen data, hacking software, pornography etc.

Police sources associated with the informal dark web monitoring unit in Bengaluru said that police have been able to go beyond the street level in controlling the supply of synthetic drugs like LSD and MDMA to find its supply network by using the dark web but the same has not been possible with drugs like cocaine.

“The cocaine supply network has not been penetrated. The seizures are still small ones based on information gathered from consumers. We are still at level one in terms of finding the cocaine supply network and arrests are only at the street level. There is no information beyond level two and three – of how the drug is coming into the city. A dedicated team and effort is needed to get beyond the current level,” police sources said.

The Bengaluru police seized 2.062 kg of cocaine in 16 cases in 2018; 332 grams from 17 cases in 2019; 1.912 kg from 16 cases in 2020 and 0.987 kg of cocaine from 17 cases so far in 2021.

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