Opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant
Opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant (representational image) | Flickr
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Chandigarh: In a major crackdown on supply of pharmaceutical opioids across the country, the Punjab Police has busted an inter-state drug cartel allegedly operating in more than 50 districts across 11 states.

The police have arrested 20 people, allegedly with a huge cache of drugs, drug proceeds and five vehicles, in an operation that spanned over eight weeks.

According to police press statement Friday said the cartel, which they termed the ‘Agra gang’, as a majority of the pharmacies are allegedly in that city, was using the hawala route to channel proceeds of the crime.

The statement added that the ‘Agra gang’ was pushing pharmaceutical opioids into markets across India by diverting drugs from manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers and retail chemists. The gang was allegedly dealing with 10-12 crore tablets, capsules, injections and syrups a month.

Of the 20 people arrested so far, 15 are from Punjab, two from UP and one each from Haryana, Delhi and West Bengal.

The police have claimed that they have seized over 27.6 lakh tablets, capsules, injections and syrup bottles along with over Rs 70 lakh in ‘drug money’ from the gang.

The gang was busted by a Barnala police team of Dr Pragya Jain, ASP Mehal Kalan, Sukhdev Virk SP(D), Ramninder Deol DSP (D), Inspector Baljit Singh Incharge CIA, working under the supervision of Barnala SSP Sandeep Goel.

Also read: Punjab CM’s chief principal secy ‘gives up’ position again, returns vehicles & relieves staff

Series of raids

The Barnala Police had in March similarly busted a ‘Mathura Gang’ and allegedly seized pharmaceutical drugs worth Rs 44 lakh along with Rs 1.5 crore drug money, in one of the state police’s biggest such hauls.

The police statement said the case began to gather steam in May with the arrest of one Balwinder Singh alias Nikka and four others, who allegedly had 2.8 lakh tablets with them.

This, the statement said, further led to the arrest of one Julfikar Ali. During questioning, Julfikar allegedly revealed the role of Harish as one of the masterminds in the influx and supply of pharmaceutical opioids in Punjab. A special team was sent to West Bengal from where Harish was nabbed.

Another FIR was registered on 13 July and subsequent raids in UP, Haryana, Delhi, Punjab led to arrest of other alleged gang members, along with the seizure of pharmaceutical opioids, drug proceeds and vehicles.

The police statement said Harish posed as a medical representative to reach out to chemists and pharmacists. He then allegedly used a pre-identified network of transport couriers operating out of major cities such as Delhi, Agra, Amritsar, Jaipur, Gwalior and Bhopal and delivered consignments to various locations in several states with the help of fake and undervalued bills. Payment and transfer of money was done using the hawala channels, and also through multiple cash transactions into dedicated bank accounts, the statement said.

“The intoxicants seized are mostly pharmaceutical opioids. Many of these pharmaceutical products have legitimate and important medical use; however these products cannot be sold without a valid medical prescription from a registered medical practitioner,” the statement added.

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 drug overdose and deaths.

The statement added that according to ‘Magnitude of Substance Use in India-2019’, a study commissioned by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, pharmaceutical opioids are the second most commonly used opioids in India (0.96 per cent), after heroin (1.14 per cent). It further said that it is estimated that the abuse of pharmaceutical opioids constitutes about 40 per cent of the drug problem of Punjab.

Also read: How Punjab plans to turn IT, finance, legal experts into investigators to strengthen police



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