Scouring dark web is helping Bengaluru Police in crackdown on drug trafficking

The dark net or dark web is an overlay network within the Internet which is not accessible through search engines, and where anonymous activities are carried out.

In January, Bengaluru Police carried out its biggest ever seizure of the synthetic drug LSD, finding 9,310 strips of the narcotic, valued at over Rs 1.30 crore, and arresting two businessmen – one from Salem and another from Bengaluru.

This single catch of LSD —colloquially known as “acid” —was nearly twice the amount of the narcotic seized by the Bengaluru Police between 2018 and 2020, and was the accomplishment of a small, informal Bengaluru Police unit, created specifically to scrutinise the dark web for illegal activities, including drug transactions.

The dark net or dark web is an overlay network within the Internet which is not accessible through search engines, and where anonymous activities are carried out. For this reason, a market for illegal activities thrives here, including the sale and purchase of drugs, stolen data, hacking software, pornography etc.

The Bengaluru Police initially learnt about large supplies of LSD being brought into the city after Rahul Tulasiram, a 28-year-old businessman held for selling the narcotic, revealed that he had been receiving the drug from an unknown source in Tamil Nadu following transactions on the dark net that could not be traced easily by the police.
The police unit tracking the dark net soon established contact with the supplier, placed an order and kept a vigil over a post office in Salem from where the consignments were being dispatched. The vigil led to the January arrest of C Balaji (48), who was allegedly procuring the LSD on the dark net from Europe and selling it to intermediaries in India.

“The LSD purchased via the dark net was being dispatched from Salem to buyers in places ranging from Delhi to Kanyakumari. We kept a watch on the movement of a drug parcel — through the postal service — from Salem to a buyer in Bengaluru and carried out arrests,” police sources said.

Over the last two year, Bengaluru Police has been on a mission to curb drug trafficking in the city, and the resultant crackdown has resulted in large seizures of narcotics — mostly of ganja, MDMA and LSD. As a part of these efforts, a small police unit to track dark web activities was created late last year after it was found that these platforms were being used to traffic synthetic drugs like LSD and MDMA.

One of the early cases cracked with the help of this police team was the arrest of a gang linked to notorious hacker Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki. A probe found that the hacker used cryptocurrency to buy drugs from the dark web on instructions from his associates.

Police sources associated with the dark web monitoring unit said officers are now able to go beyond the street level in controlling the supply of synthetic drugs like LSD and MDMA to find its supply network by using the dark web. However, they admitted that the cocaine network is yet to be penetrated.

“We are still at level 1 in terms of finding the cocaine supply network and arrests are only at the street level. There is no information… of how the drug is coming into the city. A dedicated team and effort is needed to get beyond the current level,” sources said.

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