In July, Director General RR Bhatnagar of the Narcotics Control Bureau said two major darknet vendors were operating inside India. The NCB had been probing the syndicates and managed to identify various associates. The goal, he said, was to trace the operatives to the top and takedown the vendors.
“For the first time, we have detected drug traffickers using the darknet and Bitcoin for running the illegal drug racket in India. I can tell you that our investigations have shown that some of these operatives are based in the country. We are probing them,” RR Bhatnagar said in early 2016.
The discovery of vendors operating inside India was described as a first for Indian law enforcement. NCB sources, in a statement to the press, used the same phrase to describe the upcoming seizure of 500 BTC. Law enforcement, sources said, is set to seize bitcoin from one of the darknet vendors in the country.
Instead of two darknet “syndicates” operating in India, the NCB has now detected three. While specific details remain unannounced, the source highlighted a syndicate in western India. Seized bitcoin will likely be from that operation. The NCB has nearly finalized the investigation but extra steps are required to seize the bitcoin.
Sources said the NCB is now working on legal aspects of bitcoin seizure as part of a criminal investigation. Bitcoin related crimes, in India, have been few and somewhat far-between. No law exists that explicitly makes note of digital currency. Officials said the bitcoin seizure would be allowed under Narcotic Drugs and Physchotropic Substances Act (NDPS). However, a handful of related laws would need to be reviewed.
“While criminal probe agencies have seized a variety of assets like cash and immovable assets in their respective investigations all these years, Bitcoins have never been frozen as part of the tainted assets seizure. Bitcoin is equivalent to about Rs 1 crore in the Indian currency. The NCB is moving in that direction,” sources in the agency said.
NCB Director General R R Bhatnagar has reviewed the case and upcoming seizure, MillenniumPost reported. The case is being vetted at the NCB headquarters currently. No further details were given by the NCB source.
This seizure is not India’s first advancement in combating darknet drug trade. Just recently the Central Crime Branch (CCB) started requiring postal services to scan every package, both incoming and outgoing. A source at the CCB said “We will ask them to scan every parcel and also ask for the identity of the sender along with proof.”
Sunil Kumar Sinha, a zonal director at the CCB, is tasked with training courier agencies to identify drugs in packages. He said law enforcement agencies are especially concerned with drugs hidden “in sheets of paper or inside books.” Sinha said “It is very difficult to track dealings done through the darknet. Even financial transactions are virtual.”
India’s law enforcement agencies have been rapidly adapting to combat deepweb related crime. The seizure of a major syndicate’s bitcoin is proof that the times in India are changing.