India’s Bangalore Police Say Monitoring Dark Web Can Help Limit Flow of Synthetic Drugs

In January, India's Bangalore police made the largest-ever seizure of the synthetic drug LSD when they arrested two traders - one from Salem and the other from Bangalore - and found 9,310 strips of LSD worth more than Rs. 130 million.

The single LSD catch in January 2021 was almost double the amount of LSD seized by Bangalore police between 2018 and 2020. The secret behind the massive seizure is a small informal operational unit set up by the Bangalore police to watch for illegal activities - such as drug dealing - on the dark web.

The large LSD shipment seized in January was the result of weeks of surveillance of the activities of an alleged Indian drug dealer from Salem, known as C Balaji - who used cryptocurrency to purchase large quantities of the drug from suppliers in Europe via the dark web and then sold it to retailers across India.

"LSD purchased through the dark web was sent from Salem to buyers in places from Delhi to Kanyakumari. We monitored the movement of a drug parcel through the postal service from Salem to the buyer in Bangalore and made the arrest." Police sources said.

Bangalore police initially learned about the large supply of LSD entering the city via parcels from the Salem district of Tamil Nadu from Rahul Tulasiram, a 28-year-old businessman, who was arrested in the city based on local information collected by police. The arrest revealed that Tulasiram had obtained the supply from an unknown source in Tamil Nadu, and that the supply was traded in the dark web, where police could not easily trace it.

A police team tracking dark web activity quickly established contact with the supplier, placed the order, and kept a vigil on a post office in Salem from which the shipments were sent. The vigilance led to the January arrest of C. Balaji, a 48-year-old Tamil Nadu businessman who allegedly sourced LSD from Europe in the dark web and sold it to middlemen across India.

"He was sourcing large quantities from a foreign supplier through the dark web. Synthetic drugs are not easily detectable, so he was able to receive these shipments. As the operation went undetected, he got emboldened and started looking for more customers. "I'm sorry," the source said.

Late last year, a number of officers in the Bangalore police system with knowledge of Internet technology and the ability to work with it created teams to track dark web activity after police discovered that a large amount of trafficking of synthetic drugs such as LSD and MDMA/ecstasy was taking place on the dark web.

Kamal Pant, chief of police in Garore, said after arresting a group late last year for procuring drugs through the dark web, "The suspects used dark web marketplaces like Empire Market, Silk Route, Drug Board and other sites to import a variety of drugs by paying with bitcoins drugs." .

In July, the commissioner said on social media that police arrested a foreigner and 10 college students on suspicion of drug trafficking after "the accused obtained drugs from the dark web through the instant messaging app Wickr. Police reported that 60 grams of weed oil, 1.1 kilograms of marijuana, 127 grams of ecstasy and 7.8 grams of cocaine were seized in the July seizure.

For the past two years, Bangalore police have been on a mission to curb drug trafficking in the city, which has resulted in significant seizures - 3,912 kg in 2020 and 2,545 kg in 2021 - primarily of marijuana and synthetic drugs such as MDMA and LSD, compared with 764 kg in 2018 and 1,053 kg in 2019.

One of the early cases in which police discovered the use of the dark web to procure drugs was the case of a gang associated with notorious hacker Srikrishna Ramesh, alias Sriki, who was arrested in 2020. A police investigation into the case found that the hacker was using cryptocurrency to buy drugs from the dark web at the behest of associates, including the owner of a construction company in Bangalore.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, in his first interaction with senior police officers since becoming CM on July 28, told police that "gambling, dark web and other illegal activities must be controlled and no compromise must be made." "Our fight against narcotics and drugs will continue. All districts should take strict action on this matter." He said.

The dark web is the part of the Internet that is not accessible through search engines where anonymous activities take place. There are multiple marketplaces for illegal activities on the dark web, such as the sale of drugs, stolen data, hacked software, pornography and more.

Police sources associated with Bangalore's informal darknet surveillance team said police have been able to go beyond the street level in controlling the supply of synthetic drugs such as LSD and MDMA by using the darknet to find their supply networks, but for drugs such as cocaine, it is almost impossible.

"The cocaine supply network has not been penetrated. Seizures are still small-scale drugs based on information gathered from consumers. We are still at the first level in terms of finding cocaine supply networks, and arrests are only at the street level. There is no information beyond the second and third levels - how drugs are entering the city. It takes a dedicated team and effort to go beyond the current level," police sources said.

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

From:On DarkNet – Dark Web News and Analysis
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