23October2017

Goa's Spirited Online Weekly Magazine.

GOA’S DRUG MENACE - 1

November 25-December 1, 2013

Drug arrest in GoaThis investigative article by Lionel Messias appeared on GOA TODAY (January, 1986: THE DRUG MENACE: GETTING HIGH) and is being reproduced now to show that the drug menace as it existed in the Eighties continues in the same vein (pun intended) four decades later with the only change being that the kind of drugs available today are more sophisticated in their chemistry and as a result the carte du jour has both diversified and multiplied.  Inflation too has caught up as it has with every other market commodity.  After reading this, you may want to add that in the Goa of today, the consumer profile has however changed dramatically.  You would be right in thinking that.

Little has changed in decades - 1

Goan youth, overburdened with 20th century frustrations, parental neglect and inadequate personalities, are turning to drugs, almost with a vengeance.  Faced also with an identity crisis and uncertainty about their futures, ‘flower power’ – or more, perhaps, ‘flight power’ impresses them in ways only they can understand.  When asked by a psychiatrist why he did not stop, an addict replied, “Join us in the world we live in, we like it.”

The Drug Abuse and Prevention Programe (DAPP), Panjim conducted a survey of 2,000 college and 7,000 high school students recently.  The survey has not been processed, but DAPP insists that between 10 and 15 per cent of the student population use either light or heavy drugs. 

The DAPP director declares, “the figure is not exaggerated, though neither are we one hundred per cent sure that it is the exact figure.”  He says that the epidemiological survey indicated that the drug menace which first hit coastal village schools influenced by the hippie culture has now permeated the cities of Mapusa, Panjim and Margao.  The menace grows larger as each day a fresh consignment of deadly drugs is added.  And yet the government has not been capable of sizing up the situation, leave alone tackling the crisis.  There are no official studies or figures or a preventive programme.  Drugs reach Goa much too readily and steadily.  Most cigarette shops around high schools and colleges deal.  Even a confectionary close to a school in Margao sells.  A cigarette shop at the bus stand does brisk business.

Many addicts say that soft drugs like grass (cannabis) and hashish are hardly used today, with most preferring heroin, the brown sugar variety being in demand for its harder kick and lower price.  Police activity has pushed up the cost of drugs.  The cost of white heroin varies from Rs. 175 per gm in Mapusa to Rs. 200 in Margao.  Brown sugar costs around Rs. 80 per gm.  Hashish costs Rs. 60-80 per tola, ganja about Rs. 15-20, and cocaine Rs 1,200 per gm.  Adulteration with glucose and white flour or any other suitable additive deters none.

On the wings of a vulture

The Condor tourist flights, as any peddler will tell you, have also pushed up drug prices.  The flights reportedly carry a few front men sent in to check on and improve the Indian area of operations.  The Frankfurt-Sharjah-Goa-Kathmandu flight plan covering the farthest reaches of the drug market network is just ideal for this purpose.  Taxi drivers, especially from Calangute, who serve the Dabolim airport confirm this, so do police officers.  Two such drivers claimed that a few of these so called tourists have travelled to Goa before and, in fact, were even recognized by the foreigners.  Relating an incident, a taxi driver told me that one particular tourist insisted on engaging his taxi, claiming to have used the same vehicle two years ago, from Dabolim airport to Calangute.  He even carried on him the vehicle’s registration number.

The beginnings of the drug menace in Goa can quite familiarly be traced back to the mid-sixties when the ‘flower children’ from a materially over-rich West sought spiritual fulfillment on Goa’s golden sands and in her much misunderstood hospitality.  And so servile were the ‘natives’ on the return of the ‘white skin’ that it took years of realization to even raise the price of a chilled lime juice or day’s board.  The foreigners were friendly too.  In return for a milkshake, you could get a free smoke.  Soon, the demand for ganja, charas and LSD grew.

THE PROFESSIONALS CAME TO SUSEGAD GOA AND TOOK OVER.  (Foreigners registered in Goa are allowed to move anywhere in the country and vice-versa.  If any extended stay is rejected in Goa, the foreigner simply moves out, obtains a visa extension, and slips back.)  In return, Goans are often reminded by the media and the government that the Calangute Post Office was the biggest foreign exchange earner in the country.

Goa, the landing ground

Senior intelligence sources, addicts and peddlers most democratically agree that Goa is primarily a staging base for safe dispatch abroad.  The sale of drugs is only the tip of the iceberg, a necessary measure to finance local operations.  The move into Goa was a result of oversaturation in Bombay, the development of reliable intelligence activity, a network of informers and social protest there.  Goa, it was discovered, was (and still is) politically very naïve and the general ambience extremely conducive to covert operations.  Take for example the lonely beach bungalows hired out on yearly leases, no questions asked and no proper government controls.  Police inefficiency, and inability to maintain intelligence profiles or infiltrate drug trafficking rings, has made Goa a haven.  More, Goan society, in the best Latin tradition could be depended upon to maintain stoic silence on the issue.

ARE THE POLICE unaware of drug trafficking?  The grapevine has it that in the late seventies no less than a Lieutenant Governor, whose brother was an addict, extended his protective arm over a well known dealer from Bandra, Bombay, and even harassed a senior Goan officer, Superintendent of Police Prabhakar Sinari, now stationed in New Delhi.

SENIOR POLICE OFFICERS HAVE BEEN KNOWN to been ‘contacted’ in New Delhi, prior to their transfer to Goa.  This way, the operations receive the necessary safeguards and contact at the local level is avoided.  One senior police officer and his family were gifted with a stay in Goa, at a posh hotel in Panjim, prior to his posting here.  He claimed later that he was simply ‘looking the place over.’  An intelligence source says that this officer often shielded foreigners.

Once, offended by a raid conducted at Anjuna by a fellow Superintendent of Police during his absence he took the junior officers to task, for their ‘audacity.’  This officer’s patrao is known to have another bosom friend on the local force even today, and makes a car available to this man when he visits Bombay.

In fact, after June 1984 when Pawan Kumar Sarin was dramatically arrested and released on bail for a  paltry sum of Rs. 20,000, nothing has been achieved on the anti-drug front but for the arrests of a few peddlers and addicts themselves.  Sarin who had a shop at the Tourist Hostel, Mapusa was searched at Sahar, Bombay, too as a consequence, and drugs worth almost Rs. 80,000 recovered.  Sarin had the last laugh when the bail amount was announced.  He has since jumped bail.

King of Kings

It is said that Bombay’s (in)famous underworld don, Karim Lala, whom the world  - and certainly the Indian media – knows has few scruples, could not include Goa in his plans.  The man who took over, the numero uno of Goa’s drug trade for many years, Shyam Biryani, comes from much better social stock than Karim Lala, with an equally rich wife to boot.  To this day he has a beauty parlour in Bandra in the air-condioned market at Tardeo and huge investments in real estate.

The Don as we shall call him, is said to be as decent as the guy next door, but has instilled a sense of terror in the foreigners he has on his pay roll.  Many Goans also work for him.  He is the biggest supplier of powder drugs to Goa.  He operates from Colaba, Bombay and having tied up the Goa end flies down far less nowadays.

But the Don can no longer be called Goa’s numero uno.  That dubious distinction now goes to a Parsi gentleman living near Dr. Subodh Kerkar’s hospital at Gauravaddo, Calangute, who has apparently taken over his operations.

Couriers to foreign countries are paid return air fare, two days’ paid stay abroad and Rs. 5,000 on return to India.  Consignments arrive in Goa by parcels carried on interstate buses, the Bombay-Goa steamer service, and to a great extent, by the illegal private courier services.  The risks involved in the train journey are said to rule out this mode of conveyance, except if it is with the connivance of the train guard – as it was in the early seventies in Vasco by a native of Kerala, now a big time real estate developer.

In 1981, the Mapusa Police and Excise Station seized 170 kg of charas valued at Rs. 8,00,000 from Americans residing at a bungalow in Anjuna.  In the same year another raid yielded 20 kg of charas from some Germans residing at Anjuna.  This soon became a matter of routine for Excise Inspector Manuel Afonso of the Excise Station.  During the period of 1980-82 alone almost 50 seizures of drugs were made, each haul ranging from 3 kg to 6 kg.

False bottom suitcases

However, what really did stand out was a 1981 raid on three Germans manufacturing suitcases with false bottoms in a secluded bungalow at Anjuna.  Six suitcases each with a concealed space of 2 kg capacity were seized.  In September, the same year, a rather resourceful New Zealander was arrested for possession of 7 kg of charas.  The Kiwi lived near the Arpora/Anjuna road junction and would travel to a lonely house about 8 km away from where he worked from midnight onwards making similar suitcases.  On the night of his arrest excise officials broke their way in seizing two completed suitcases.

From Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir too, come the drug peddlers, supposedly selling antiques, jewellery etc.  One seemingly straight Kashmiri joint family spanning three generations lived at Gauravaddo, Calangute till recently.  Three Afghans operating independently of each other are among the most prominent of the drug pushers.  In July 1985, 47 kg of charas was seized during a raid on Afghans residing at Assagao by the Excise Station, Mapusa.

Hashish comes from Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan via Pakistan (known as the Golden Cresent) and on to Amritsar by truck.  Grass or cannabis comes from Kerala and Manali in Himachal Pradesh.  The Nepali connection is through Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.  According to a peddler, the best quality charas comes from Afghanistan and Nepal.

Charas mainly arrives in half kilo to one kilo slabs, and is sold by the wholesalers in the same form at prices varying from Rs.4,000-8,000 per kilo.  The retailers sell it to the peddlers, from whom it finds its way to users in little balls of 100 gm or less, often adulterated.  An addict told me that heroin comes to Goa in double packed polythene satchels slightly over a square foot in size.

He has ‘handled’ such satchels thrice – for which work he was allowed to scrape the bags clean and collect 3-4 gm each time.

It is said that some Goan goldsmiths from Mapusa finance some operations as a means to convert black money.  Much of the drug activity anyway is centered around Mapusa and the stretch from Calangute to Arambol (Harmal).

A HOTEL OWNER IN MAPUSA is a known wholesaler and is acquainted with every policeman on the Mapusa force.  Nicknamed ‘Biloo’, he has two shops at the Panjim bus stand and has been repeatedly raided by Mapusa police, without success.

Another big time retailer who lives at the Anjuna-Vagator crossroads owns three Ambassador cars and four or five motorcycles – supposedly acquired with the profits earned from his modest cigarette shop.

Police have raided the (green) house on Heliodoro Salgado Road in Panjim on at least three occasions, including one search under the immoral traffic act.

FLOWER POWER TO POT SELLERS

During my investigation of foreigners involved in drug peddling, I was able to uncover these astonishing facts and which was a part of the above article:

# A king of the foreigner’s drug mafia is a loud gangling Englishman who rides loose on a flashy red Royal Enfield.  Charlie is said by some to be a cocaine addict, and by others an excessive drinker, since he is often seen downing a whole bottle at a well known restaurant at Sauntavaddo on Baga beach.  He resides conveniently close to the beachfront, disturbed by neither his country’s laws nor the laws of his benefactors.

# A German named ‘Frenchie’ scours  the bars and ‘cold drink houses’ on the beach for foreigners who are penniless and broke and seeking a way home.  According to my sources, Frenchie offers his prey the opportunity to swallow condoms packed with heroin in exchange for a free ticket out to a given destination where the carrier ‘unloads’ himself to deliver the heroin.  Frenchie is reportedly wanted in West Germany for murder committed in Berlin. He now lives in a well known lodge at Candolim.

# “The Birmingham Gang” originally started off as a group of twelve Englishmen from Birmingham, England.  Now all but two of them remain, the rest having either died or dispersed.  The gang’s van was raided in 1980 at a garage in Saligao.  Police seized 504 kg of charas concealed in the van.

# Self-styled “Prince Nimrad” is a Russian émigré Jew turned American citizen with a claim to have ‘Czar’ blood in him and lives in Arpora.  How he was able to build a fibre glass boat in Goa is not exactly known, but the ‘Prince’ retains sailing as his second best hobby, after drug running.

# A gang of four Italians, my source says, arrives in Goa each year during the tourist season.  This group caters only to foreigners.

# Despite the ‘fact’ that the Afghan refugees supposedly subsist on aid from the United Nations and other schemes, they are able to keep up with the foreigners when it comes to hiring houses.  A case in point is the Assagao incident (see story above).  The three Afghans involved there had hired three houses: in Anjuna, Chapora and Assagao.  In fact, most foreigners involved in drug trafficking hire two or three houses.  The purpose of this subterfuge is that while one house is used as a factory, the other house is notified for living under the Foreigner’s Registration in form ‘C’.

(To be continued)

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