In a major crackdown on trafficking of pharmaceutical opioids across the country, the Punjab Police on Friday said it has busted a drug cartel, operating across 11 states, and arrested 20 people.
The Punjab Police also termed the action as "one of the biggest crackdowns on supply of pharmaceutical opioids across the country".
20 people have been arrested with a huge cache of drugs and drug proceeds - money and five vehicles - in an operation that spanned over eight weeks, Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta said.
Giving details of the case and the investigations, he 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 manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers and retail chemists.
Of the 20 people arrested so far, 16 are from Punjab, two are from UP and one each is from Haryana and Delhi, the Director General of Police said in a statement.
"With the arrest of these gang members, a well-oiled network of drug syndicate pushing consignments to the tune of 10-12 crores 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 addicted to these drugs have been saved from drug abuse and addiction," he said.
The gang was busted by a Barnala Police team, comprising Pragya Jain, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, and other officers working under the supervision of senior police officer 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 tablets, capsules, injections and syrup bottles were seized from them, along with drug proceeds money of Rs 70,03,800, Dinkar Gupta said.
The DGP said the case began to unravel in May with the arrest of Balwinder Singh alias Nikka and four others, along with 2,85,000 tablets during an investigation into an FIR registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act at Mehal Kalan police station.
This further led to the arrest of one Julfikar Ali with 12,000 intoxicating tablets, the DGP said, adding his questioning revealed the role of Harish as one of the masterminds in the influx and supply of pharmaceutical opioids into Punjab.
"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 arrested. It was Harish who disclosed the modus operandi of the gang and its chain of supply of psychotropic drugs not just in Punjab but in over 11 states of the country," he said.
The DGP said 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 such as address and phone number, which he easily found over the internet and social media.
The contraband smugglers used a pre-identified network of couriers, operating from major cities including Delhi, Agra, Amritsar, Jaipur, Gwalior and Bhopal, and delivered consignments to various locations in several states with the help of undervalued bills using local transporters.
"Payment and transfer of money was done using the hawala channels, and also through multiple cash transactions into bank accounts especially created for this purpose," he said.
"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," he said.