NCB to probe cryptocurrencies after Bitcoin-linked drug bust

The Narcotics Control Bureau will probe cryptcurrencies in a more organised and elaborate manner to curb sale of contraband material on the darknet. The government, in fact, told Parliament on Tuesday that NCB officers are being trained for probing cryptocurrencies and darknet. The agency has been investigating cases where drugs were bought using bitcoin, and recently it arrested Makarand Pardeep Adivirkar, who is known as “crypto king” in Mumbai for allegedly using bitcoins to buy contraband.

In reply to a question, minister of state for home Nityanand Rai said, “NCB personnel are being provided in-house training on cryptocurrency, darknet, digital surveillance, cybercrime information, cybercrime forensics, digital forensics to help them improve their technical competence and acquaint themselves with latest surveillance and investigation techniques.”

Rai said in response to another question that to curb the spread of illicit drugs through the dark web, the government is training field officers in “cyber and forensic technologies” and “collection of evidence through electronic means”. The nodal agencies are also running a sensitisation programme for personnel of post offices and courier companies to identify drug consignments, he said.

The minister said that “coordination is being done with drug law enforcement agencies of other countries for sharing intelligence related to dark web” and “assistance is being provided to states for improving their enforcement capability, including electronic surveillance”. The government is also setting up a training centre for drug law enforcement at Bhopal, under the Bureau of Police Research & Development, he said.

Ahead of the Winter Session of Parliament, the government was planning to introduce a cryptocurrency bill but withheld it for wider consultations amid security concerns. While the NCB has been mandated for enforcement of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, collection of intelligence and darknet have emerged as the biggest challenge for the agencies. “Dark web is accessible only with special browsers, and these marketplaces tend to attract the attention of law enforcement agencies due to their secretive nature,” said a senior official.

Earlier, the government was examining proposals to strengthen the NDPS Act, 1985, and held consultations with stakeholders. Besides the NCB, DRI, Customs and Excise, BSF, SSB and Indian Coast Guard have been granted powers for making interdiction of narcotic drugs in remote areas and along the borders.

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