A clutch of call centres in Thane, Chandigarh and Hyderabad; a senior official of the General Post Office (GPO) in Delhi, an auto-rickshaw driver and a few pharma units in Agra, Sangli and Ludhiana have been illegally supplying controlled drugs and psychotropic substance worth crores abroad, according to a probe by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI). DRI has alleged that the drugs are being supplied since 2008 to the US, UK, France and Costa Rica for recreational purposes.
In a complaint filed in a Thane court on May 25, DRI has detailed how call centres are being used to smuggle these drugs. According to the chargesheet, accessed by The Indian Express, Mumbai-based businessman Manjeet Singh Chilotra has been “involved in illegal export of psychotropic substances viz. Alprazolam, Zolpidem, Diazepam” through the “Foreign Post Office, New Delhi by way of mis-declaration and use of fake prescriptions”.
Chilotra,47, is currently in Thane jail. The chargesheet has alleged that call centres engaged in pharmaceutical processes and run by business associates of Chilotra in Thane, Chandigarh and Hyderabad used to take drop shipping orders from clients in the US, UK and other countries for psychotropic substances. Drop shipping is a supply chain management in which the retailer does not keep goods in stock but instead transfers customer orders and shipment details to either the manufacturer, another retailer, or a wholesaler, who ships the goods directly to the customer.
The complaint said these orders were forwarded to Chilotra, who procured the drugs from pharma units in Agra, Sangli and Ludhiana. He transported them through his courier company Allied Air Express to Sanjay Singh, an auto-rickshaw driver in Delhi. Singh transported the drugs to the GPO, from where it was shipped abroad through speed post. The drugs, says the chargesheet, were mis-declared as “health supplements” to ensure customs clearance.
On April 22, DRI arrested Pramod Kumar Verma, marketing manager of the GPO for allegedly faciliating export of the drugs abroad. Verma allegedly received a commission of Rs 50 for each parcel. The chargesheet said Verma received Rs 10 lakh from Chilotra. According to the chargesheet, the foreign clients made payments in the merchant bank accounts of US and Australia-based friends and relatives of the owners of the call centre firms. This money, says the chargesheet, was routed to Indian firms controlled by Chilotra. For domestic transactions with suppliers of drugs, Chilotra used Angadias.
The DRI chargesheet said Chilotra “created several companies and bank accounts” in the name of those companies “in order to take care of multiple transactions and also to avoid turnover crossing Rs 1 crore, so that he could avoid statutory audits”. The chargesheet said income tax returns of Chiltora’s firms show that he ran software and IT business. It added that Chilotra bought at least six properties in Thane and four luxury sedans and sports utility vehicles “from the export of psychotropic substances”.
According to the chargesheet, Nitin Pawar, a call-centre owner accused of drug smuggling said, “on a monthly basis around 1,000 orders were placed by him (Pawar) with Manjeet Singh for supply of mostly controlled (prohibited) pharmaceutical products”. Pawar was arrested by DRI in November 2016 and is in judicial custody. Illegal export of drugs by courier firms, call centres and chemical firms was unearthed by DRI on November 21, 2016, after it seized 16 lakh tablets of psychotropic substances worth Rs 57 lakh from the premises of Chilotra and a few others in Mumbai. So far, DRI has arrested 10 people in connection with the alleged racket.