Chinese drug cartels making incursions into India!

July 6th, 2008 - 3:05 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sahil Makkar
New Delhi, July 6 (IANS) All this time Indian law enforcement agencies had been battling Nigerian drug syndicates, but attempts by Chinese drug cartels to get a foothold in the country for production of ‘designer drugs’ have set the alarm bells ringing. According to top officials of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) who have been closely monitoring this disturbing development, influential Chinese syndicates have made at least five attempts to set up Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) drug laboratories in the country.

ATS includes amphetamine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, ketamine and GHB. These synthetic drugs are manufactured in a lab and do not rely on plant-based components.

India has 25,000 drugs and pharma manufacturers that account for 10 percent of the world production, say United Nations experts.

“Incursions by the Chinese drug mafia into Indian cities are definitely a new trend. In the past they have tried to set up ATS labs in India but their efforts were nipped in the bud,” said a top NCB official.

“But they are not giving up and they are still looking at new ways to set up base.”

NCB sources said in the last two years the syndicates’ attempts to set up ATS laboratories in India had gone up.

Four similar laboratories were busted in Gurgaon in 2006, in Kolkata last year and twice in Mumbai in 2007 and as early as 2008. The drug authorities arrested six Hong Kong residents from Gurgaon.

“Their first effort was neutralised in May 2003 when we busted their ATS laboratory in Kolkata which was at a nascent stage of production. We had then arrested Indians with strong Chinese links and Myanmarese nationals and seized 24 kg of ephedrine, a precursor of ATS,” the official told IANS.

ATS drugs are also referred to as ‘designer drugs’ because many were originally intended to get around drug laws by shifting the molecular structure of a banned drug.

In the last few years, the circulation of these drugs, highly popular with adolescents, has increased more than any other drug group worldwide. Such designer drugs are a big rage in nightclubs and rave parties and are increasingly used by college-going youth.

“The use of ATS drugs is quite high in developed countries but it has not reached such alarming proportions in India though it is prevalent. The most abused drugs in India are opium-based,” Rajiv Walia, senior programme coordinator with the UN office on Drugs and Crime, told IANS.

Drug cartels have a strong incentive to start up this business from India as procurement of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine for preparation of ATS is easier here than in China.

Laws on procuring pharmaceuticals products are much stiffer in their country and moreover hey face the risk of capital punishment if arrested, added a senior NCB functionary.

According to the NCB, the modus operandi of the cartels involves sending out Chinese nationals on tourist visas, who subsequently set up base in quick time. After importing sophisticated machines on the pretext of doing business they begin manufacturing.

“They are clever and do not involve locals in this venture so as not to arouse suspicion,” said an official.

At present the precursors for ATS, especially ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine, are smuggled out to Myanmar for manufacturers there. The ATS laboratory is established in makeshift houses and it needs only five people to run it. The man who prepares the drugs is popularly referred to as the ‘cook’ in drug parlance.

“The ATS laboratory requires a lot of care. If its temperature is not maintained at a certain level, chances are high for an explosion.”

With increasing drug trafficking between the two countries, NCB has signed a memorandum of understanding with its Chinese counterpart in 2005 for sharing of intelligence and mutual cooperation.

Walia pointed out that ATS has emerged over the past 15-20 years and have become readily available because of low cost and easy availability.

The Indian pharmaceutical industry is in the front rank of India’s science-based industries with wide ranging capabilities in the complex field of drug manufacture and technology.

The sector is estimated to be worth $6 billion, and growing at over 13 percent annually. Indian pharmaceutical companies now supply almost all the country’s demand for formulations and nearly 70 percent of demand for bulk drugs.

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