Thirty days is all it took for a special team of five officers from the Telangana Excise department to bust one of the largest drug rackets in Hyderabad. Here is how the 'Special Five', including a woman officer, exposed a drug racket that supplied narcotics to close to 1,000 people, mostly school and college students.
Officials involved in the probe rubbished reports of a student's tip-off leading them to drug peddlers. The officials said that it was ground intelligence that paved the way for the expose. "We started from scratch and worked our way up. We formed a special team of five officers who worked undercover. We bought drugs, posed as clients to meet the peddlers and drug pushers. Phone calls were made requesting higher quantities. All five are young officers and posed as college students to get to the peddlers," said Akun Sabharwal, the Director of the Department of Prohibition and Excise.
Breaching a closely guarded network
It is not easy to breach a drug racket. The peddlers and clients work like a closed community. Addition to the community is allowed only by reference. In Hyderabad, most of the narcotics were bought online using the dark web. Children as young as 13 or 14 years old used bitcoins and credit card to make online payments to get drugs delivered to them. "It isn't like I go directly to a peddler and ask for narcotics and he will just give it to me. I have to be referred by someone else who is a client already. Demand for large amounts of drugs elicits suspicion and we had to work little by little. It took us thirty days to infiltrate," Akun Sabharwal added.
Five officers posed as college students and managed to get in touch with clients who were also students. Posing as addicts, officers met peddlers and placed orders of LSD and MDMA strips. Just one strip was bought and then more orders were placed. "I liked what you supplied last time. I want more. Can you arrange?" were the words of a young undercover women officer to a peddler. The team spoke to peddlers directly posing as students, the prime target group of the racket.
Most students who were hooked to the narcotics supplied by the gang were hostelers. Transactions took place online using the dark web and bitcoins. Despite arresting the accused, the officials could not access the website used to peddle narcotics. "We managed to secure the password of one of the accused, Calvin. I tried to log into the website but it perhaps detected that my stroke was different and the ID was blocked immediately. Despite having a valid ID and password, it was not easy," said a probing officer.
For now, the department has been successful in identifying children on the peddler's list and instructing their parents to seek rehabilitation or counselling. More arrests are likely in the case, including one Tollywood film producer who has a history of abuse, officials said.