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Undercover pusher

  • Published at 12:00 am February 11th, 2019
Drugs
We need to get better at catching drug dealers MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

Drug peddlers are coming up with increasingly creative ways to carry out their trade

Yaba, Dhaka’s drug du jour, has not been found in an ambulance as yet but as we read that 2.4 lakh tablets of the drug were found in a picnic bus, any method to hoodwink the law is a possibility.

The desperation of the traders indicates the demand for the drug in the market. A few months ago, there was news that, with the government crackdown, yaba traders who were computer savvy were taking orders via social networking sites to send the tablets to specified addresses.

Drug traders always come up with ingenious to stay one step ahead of the law. In fact, way back in the 90s, when the drug market was dominated by Phensidyl, traders used a variety of methods to ship the product.

The syrup was caught while being transported in large cans of anti-septic, fertilizer, and even bottles of carbonated drinks.

New methods are caught if there is an informer

The truth is, unless there is an informer who gives reliable information about the methods of transport, chances of apprehending drug shipments concealed under something legitimate, are remote.

Going back a few decades, detecting and apprehending Phensidyl transported in anti-septic containers was possible because, when the actual cans were bought by a known local drug trader, people became suspicious.

For example, if one is seen to buy 20 empty cans of oil, it’s bound to raise a few brows.

The winter picnic bus is a perfect cover for transporting yaba because such buses, filled with revelers, are hardly ever stopped by the police. No one wants to spoil the fun of picnickers.

The same applies for an ambulance. Let’s say a trader hires an ambulance from in front of a major public hospital to take a sick relative to the capital. Under the ambulance bed of the ailing person, who may be feigning the illness, a large bag, ostensibly full of personal items of the patient, can be placed without raising any suspicion.

Voila, the siren is played and the car rushes towards the city.

The ambulance driver may or may not be part of the plot. If he is, then the possibility of apprehending the shipment is low.

Or, how about using a garbage truck as cover for transporting drugs? Under a heap of rotting filth, the stuff can be carefully wrapped and hidden. No one wants to go near dirt, grime, and putrid old foodstuff.

The point is, there are countless ways to deceive the law because the deception is done through everyday activities which cannot be checked all the times.

New tricks never tried before

How’s this for a plan: A group of women dressed as if going to an evening party but the set-up is a façade for transporting drugs. The dazzling power of beauty will diminish all thoughts of drugs and anything remotely unlawful.

Shooting for a film with camera crew, actors and props can also be a convincing cover to transport huge quantities of yaba.

Like I said earlier, it’s simply not possible to stop all social activity to search for drugs because that would be impractical.

Unfortunately, drug traders will wade into common social acts to evade suspicion.

Imagine this: A nice young couple going out for an evening ride on a rickshaw with their toddler. If the couple is engaged in yaba trade, their innocuous evening activity is the perfect cover. And the child makes the subterfuge fool-proof.

The road which runs from the second hand book shop from Nilkhet to Katabon was an infamous drug spot only a few years ago. Once, the area was home to the Babupura slum -- a cesspit of immorality with the drug trade carried out openly.

When the slum was demolished, the area was left open for some time and, at the turn of the millennium, RAB found a stash of Phensidyl, numbering in almost 50,000 bottles, kept in an underground cell. The subterranean hiding spot never raised suspicion because on the ground there was a dilapidated wooden cart, covered in grime and dirt. The cart was used to divert attention.

To deter anyone from snooping, local street urchins were told to defecate near the cart. The stink and flies did the rest.

The yaba trade is not just about addiction, it’s actually a damning narrative about a decaying social ethos, dominated by mercenary ideals. The business offers money plus a quick rise to wealth. In a highly acquisitive society with material success craved by all, the way adopted to make money is insignificant.

That’s because when one has the money, hardly anyone asks about the origin of  affluence, sudden or not. Even if people know that the wealth has come from something unlawful, there’s hardly any outrage. When there’s demand, traders will go to extreme lengths to evade the law. One other tactic recently reported is changing the colour of the tablets from its usual pink to other shades so they can be passed as contraceptive pills.

Well, it a battle of wits and the law just has to lure more people into becoming informants. 

Towheed Feroze is News Editor for Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.