In one of the biggest crackdowns on supply of pharmaceutical opioids across the country, Punjab Police have busted an inter-state drug cartel operating in more than 50 districts of the country spread across 11 states, using the hawala channel route. In an operation that spanned eight weeks, twenty persons have already been arrested with a huge cache of drugs, drug proceeds-money and five vehicles, Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta said here on Friday.
Gupta said the drug cartel, known as the ‘Agra Gang’, was pushing pharmaceutical opioids (drugs) into the markets all across India by diverting drugs in huge quantities from the drug manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers and retail chemists spread out across the country. Of the 20 people arrested so far, 16 are from Punjab, two from UP and one each from Haryana and Delhi.
“With the arrest of these gang members, a well-oiled network of drug syndicate pushing consignments to the tune of Rs 10-12 crore of intoxicating pharmaceutical opioids in the form of tablets/capsules/injections/syrups per month into Punjab and other parts of the country has been totally smashed and thousands of youth who were or could have got hooked to these drugs have been saved from drug abuse and addiction,” said the DGP.
“The gang was busted by a Barnala Police team, comprising of Dr Pragya Jain, IPS, ASP Mehal Kalan, Sukhdev Virk SP (D), Ramninder Deol DSP (D), Inspector Baljit Singh (Incharge CIA), working under the supervision of SSP Barnala Sandeep Goel. The arrests of the 20 men, including one of the cartel’s kingpins, were made from various locations in Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. As many as 27,62,137 intoxicating tablets, capsules, injections and syrup bottles were seized from them, along with drug proceeds money of Rs 70,03,800,” said Gupta.
Barnala Police had, in March 2020, similarly busted a ‘Mathura Gang’ and seized 44 lakh intoxicants and Rs 1.5 crore drug money in the biggest ever such haul by Punjab Police, DGP said in a written statement to the media.
“The case began to unravel in May with the arrest of Balwinder Singh aka Nikka and four others, along with 2,85,000 intoxicating tablets (Tab Clovidol) during investigation into FIR number 72 dated May 23,.2020 under sections of NDPS Act at Mehal Kalan police station. This further led to the arrest of Julfikar Ali with 12,000 intoxicating tablets (Tab Clovidol). Julfikar’s questioning revealed the role of Harish as one of the masterminds in the influx and supply of pharmaceutical opioids into Punjab,” Gupta said.
“Following these arrests, the Barnala Police spent over two months developing the available leads, laying out elaborate surveillance plans and a trap was then laid out, with a special team being sent to West Bengal from where Harish was nabbed. It was Harish who disclosed the modus operandi of the gang and its chain of supply of psychotropic drugs not only in Punjab but in over 11 states of the country,” said the DGP, adding that an FIR under NDPS Act was registered at Barnala city police station on July 13 and subsequent raids in UP, Haryana Delhi, Punjab led to arrest of other gang members, along with seizure of a large quantity of pharmaceutical opioids, the drug proceeds-money and vehicles.
Explaining the gang’s tactics, the DGP said that “investigations into the gang’s modus operandi so far have revealed that Harish posed as a medical representative to establish contact with chemists and pharmacists by using information like address and phone number, which he easily found over internet and social media. The contraband smugglers used a pre-identified network of couriers /transport /goods carriers, operating from major cities like Delhi, Agra, Amritsar, Jaipur, Gwalior and Bhopal, and delivered consignments to various locations in several states with the help of fake/undervalued bills using local transporters. Payment and transfer of money was done using the hawala channels, and also through multiple cash transactions into bank account especially created for this purpose.”
The intoxicants seized by the police are mostly pharmaceutical opioids, and many of these pharmaceutical products have legitimate and important medical use. However, these products cannot be sold without a valid medical prescription.
“The gang was diverting these intoxicants, which are medically used for pain relief and treatment for opioid dependence, for extra-medical use, which can lead to major drug overdose issues and even deaths,” said Gupta.
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