Lauding the police efforts, former chief minister B S Yediyurappa had said last year, “This is the first time in the country that strong action is being taken against drug usage."
The death of a 27-year-old Congolese national in the custody of the Bengaluru police after being arrested for alleged trafficking of party drugs comes amidst a crackdown on drug traffickers in the city over the last two years — resulting in a nearly 10-fold rise in registered drug cases, from 285 in 2018 to 2,766 in 2020. 2021 has already seen 2,550 cases being registered.
The wide net cast by police authorities has seen the busting of celebrity drug networks serviced by foreign suppliers, who are believed to bring in drugs via various means, such as parcels to post offices, purchases on the dark net, and from cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
The number of foreigners arrested on drug trafficking charges has also seen a corresponding jump — from 82 in 2018-19 to 184 in 2020-21. In the seven months of the current year, 100-odd foreigners have been arrested. The quantity of MDMA seized in the city has increased from 876 grams in 2018-19 to 2.571 kg in 2020 and 7.777 kg in 2021, police data show.
Lauding the police efforts, former chief minister B S Yediyurappa had said last year, “This is the first time in the country that strong action is being taken against drug usage.”
Sources involved with the operations say police have managed to tap into the drug supply and consumer network — a tightly bound unit, with suppliers selling only to known purchasers — “through systematic arrests”. The leads from a drug haul in November 2018, of 1.5 kg of heroin and 1,930 Ecstasy tablets worth an estimated Rs 1.5 crore, for example, led police last year to two actresses and other known names, as well as Loom Pepper, a Senegalese national and allegedly a major drug supplier.
Officers say police call records and WhatsApp data have helped police zero in on users and suppliers. “The network operates on mobile phones and messaging services,” said a source.
Police claim to have zeroed in on Congolese national Joel Shindani Malu alias Jon, 27, who died in police custody on August 2, through an informant. His custodial death, resulting in protests, was not the first such incident. In May 2021, a Nigerian national, Peter Ofor, had been found dead near a lake after he was reportedly picked up by police on drug trafficking charges. In 2017, another Nigerian, Ifeanyi Madu, had died reportedly when he fell off a scooter while being pursued by the narcotics wing of the Bengaluru Crime Branch.
“There are rival gangs among foreign drug suppliers. Many times seizures occur due to tip-offs provided to police on account of the rivalries,” an officer said.
A senior officer admitted that police have been known to use high-handed measures, particularly against African nationals, many of whom are found to be overstaying after expiry of their visas. In fact, filing of cases ends up allowing them to remain in the country after release on bail, on account of pending trials. In 2019, the Karnataka High Court had ordered that illegal foreigners awaiting trial in the state be lodged in detention centres and not be released after bail.
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