Punjab, smugglers' emerging source for synthetic drugs

Punjab drug fiascoKahlon (in white, left), Vijender and Ram Singh on a walk. IE

32 arrests in 9 months, including award-winning sportsmen, decorated policemen and politicians; seizures of raw materials and prepared drugs for clients abroad, together worth Rs 1,000 crore.

In the multi-crore international smuggling racket of synthetic drugs, Punjab has emerged a new hub. Thirty-two persons with links to the state have been arrested over the past nine months, and 935 kg precursor chemicals (ephedrine and pseudoephedrine) and another 13 kg ready-to-use rave party drugs, amounting to around Rs 1,000 crore, seized. Investigators believe prepared drugs worth at least Rs 600 crore have found their way out of the state to Canada, the UK and the Netherlands since 2009.

Those arrested include decorated sportspersons, policemen, NRIs, successful businessmen, senior politicians and former Punjab terrorists, apparently drawn in by the attractive margins. The precursor chemicals used to manufacture amphetamine-type stimulants, including methamphetamine or Ice, are available at Rs 15 lakh a kg in the uncontrolled drug market in India. A few simple chemical processes later, these can be sold in Canada and the US at over Rs 5 crore a kg (the highest demand is from Southeast Asia and North America).

Drug abuse too is rampant in Punjab. It has always ranked among the top five centres in India for trade in opium and opium-based drugs. For the past five years, Punjab has shown the highest recovery of heroin in the country. It topped the country in the recovery of opium too until last year, when Maharashtra went on top.

Seizures of ATS were being made largely from Imphal until Punjab emerged on the map.Two synthetic drug modules busted in Punjab were controlled by men who had lived or were living abroad. Raja Kandola, who was arrested in 2012 by the Jalandhar police and later by the Delhi police, had lived in the US for several years. His unit, which was manufacturing Ice, was being run from his farmhouse in Samrala, Ludhiana. And Anoop Singh Kahlon, whose arrest in March this year led to the busting of the network, is a former Punjab cop based in Canada.

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