Dark net, bitcoin being used to smuggle drugs: Report

A picture taken on February 6, 2018 shows a visual representation of the digital crypto-currency Bitcoin, at the

The “increasing” trend of using the ‘dark net’ and bitcoins to smuggle pharma medicines and illicit drugs to untouched segments of the population and youngsters in the country is becoming a new challenge for anti-narcotics agencies, a latest report has revealed.

The “loose regime” of the sale of over-the-counter drugs and some select ayurvedic preparations is a trend that drug law enforcement agencies are trying to grapple with, a recently published Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) report for 2017 said.

“The purchasing of drugs via the Internet, particularly the dark net and through cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have increased in recent years.

“The trend raises concerns in terms of the potential of the dark net to attract new population of users by facilitating access to drugs, in a setting that, although illegal, allows users to avoid direct contact with criminals and law enforcement authorities,” the report accessed by PTI said.

Underling the threat, the report said, there is a “growing use of bitcoins in drug trafficking, especially in online drug trafficking, making it difficult to track the financial component involved in the act.”

This illegal currency, it added, can be further exchanged with the Indian Rupee or the US dollars. Drug parcels are paid for in bitcoins or similar cryptocurrency and are most often delivered via postal services.

It said the dark net or the hidden online world “cannot be accessed” through traditional web searches and the buyers and sellers of narcotic drugs reach it through a special search engine called “The Onion Router (TOR)” to ensure that their identities remain concealed.

The report stated two such cases of drugs trafficking that were registered in the country last year.

The first was in July, 2017 when 21 people, including three foreigners, were arrested by Telangana authorities and materials like LSD blots, MDMA, hashish, ganja and ecstacy were seized from them.

The second case was detected by the Delhi police which arrested two people in October last year who were planning to supply drugs to rave parties in the national capital region (NCR).

“The NCB zonal office in Gandhinagar and few others have detected few instances of bitcoins being used for drugs trade in the past.

“We understand that there would be many such cases but only few get detected owing to multiple layers of online secrecy. This is hence an emerging challenge,” a senior official said.

Reporting on the ongoing and emerging trends of drug abuse in the country, the report said “diversion” of pharmaceutical drugs and some ayurvedic preparations is “prevalent” in north Indian states and remains a cause of concern for anti-narcotics agencies.

The NCB, the national agency to coordinate drug law enforcement action by involving various state agencies, police and central departments, has also sought banning the open sale of tramadol tablets and bringing it under the control regime of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

The pain-reliever is a schedule ‘H’ drug and can only be given to a person on the prescription of a registered doctor.

The report said tramadol is not included in the 1971 UN convention schedule on psychotropic substances and is also “banned” in many countries.

“Hence, it is often smuggled through India to countries like the US and Canada,” it said.

The report added that “ayurvedic tablets containing opium like Kamini Vidrawan Ras and Barshasa” are being illegally routed for drugs abuse.

Cough syrups (containing Codeine) like Corex, Phensedyl, Recodex and depressants like Alprazolam, Diazapam, Clonazepam, Lorazapam and Benzodiazepine are prominently “abused and trafficked”, it said.