In Retrospect

Uncovering Bihar's illicit liquor trade

Where there is a will there is a way—the liquor traffickers of Bihar perfectly summarise this aphorism as they alter their modus operandi to make illegal gains by unlawful means in the dry state, explores Abhay Singh.

A few years ago, the Bihar chief minister announced a liquor ban in his state —but, this did not apply to the liquor traffickers who have been trafficking liquor in the dry state for a significantly higher margin of profit. This story details how the bootleggers are using different conniving ways to usher in liquor into the proclaimed 'dry state'.

The Indian Railways
In three separate cases, the Delhi Police arrested three persons from different railway stations in the Capital, who were carrying alcohol to the dry state to make a profit. The accused first bought the liquor from Haryana and then stored it in their home. Only after the stock was ready did they come to the railway station. Sources claimed that due to fewer baggage scanners in some stations, they were able to carry the liquor inside the trains; but, the alertness of the police ultimately led to their arrest. A police official claimed that in most of these cases the accused presented an alibi that the liquor was for a birthday party.

Further interrogation of the accused revealed that they bought the liquor for Rs 150 or Rs 200 and wanted to sell it for a steep Rs 400 in Bihar. The Deputy Commissioner of Police (Railways) Parwaiz Ahmed said that they have instructed their police personnel to be alert and also keep a tab on the movement of traffickers who are illegally transporting illicit liquor.

Police Data
Police sources told Millennium Post that in 2015, around 2.79 lakh bottles of country-made liquor were seized; in 2016, the number was more than three lakh. This year, so far, the number has exceeded four lakh. Bottles of illicit Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) were also seized by the city police.
In 2015, more than 50,000 bottles of IMFL were seized, while the number was over one lakh last year. In 2017, more than 64,000 such bottles had been seized. The total number of bottles of illicit IMFL seized over the last three years was over 41,000.
In 2015, around 1,967 cases were reported under the Excise Act in Delhi. More than 2,000 such cases were filed in 2016 and more than 2,300 cases have been registered in 2017. Over the last three years, over 6,000 criminals involved in the illicit liquor trade were nabbed by the Delhi Police.
According to the data for January 2108, the police had recovered more than 32,000 litres of country-made liquor. Over 200 bottles of beer were recovered, whereas the recovery of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) was over 4,000 litres.
Modified Vehicles
To supply illicit liquor in two dry states of the country, the traffickers are now using a modified vehicle, reveal the investigations of Delhi Police after they arrested two men with a truck in which the accused had made a secret chamber for the purpose of hiding the alcohol. The arrest was made in South East Delhi. "After thorough physical checking, by hitting the side walls with an iron rod, it was found that a small portion of the truck on the left-side was sounding hollow; and, on minute inspection, it revealed that it was an entry gate to the secret chamber containing the liquor. When it was removed, the secret chamber came to light, full of IMFL cartons," said DCP (south-east) Chinmoy Biswal.
In another arrest from the Shaheen Bagh area before Holi, the police seized a tempo, specially designed for the transportation of liquor with a specially engineered false cavity where liquor was stored. Two men were duly arrested. The liquor was to be transported to Ghaziabad for sale to local suppliers on the occasion of Holi.
The gang associates smuggled this consignment from Punjab/Himachal Pradesh/Haryana and handed over the same to drivers and helpers in Sonipat City. The carriers would further meet their associates at Ghaziabad (UP) and from there, through separate teams, the liquor would proceed to various places.
Liquor Trafficking: A Relay Race
According to the police, the network of liquor supply worked intelligently with enviable organisation. They hired a number of drivers and inter-changed the drivers from the point of origin to the point of destination so that no one gathered a clue of the full chain. The kingpin of the smugglers secretly installed a GPS tracker in the truck to track down the movement of the vehicle and keep an eye on the route and monitor the duration of halts taken by the truck. "The leader used to intimate the other associates, receivers about the probable time of the consignment reaching a particular destination," the police said.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (South East) Chinmoy Biswal stated that the liquor supply chain is like a relay race as the vehicles containing the alcohol handover to several drivers in a chain before they reach the destination. Police sources claimed that most of the drivers are unaware of the materials they are carrying inside the vehicle. "They have been told to leave the truck when they reach the destination from where the other driver took the vehicle," said a police source. They keep a tab on police picketing through conducting recces of the route. Only when they find everything to be right, do they move with the vehicle.
Cab for Trafficking
Driving a rental cab for more than 1000 kilometres to the dry state of Bihar only to supply illegal liquor, is the new trend used by bootleggers. Police sources told Millennium Post that they arrested a man who, along with his associates, started this modus operandi from December 2016 and more than 40 trips were made by the accused.
The police claimed that during the investigation the accused disclosed that they had a plan that if the vehicle was caught by the police then the cab company would bear the loss of the car. "The cab companies never checked who was driving their cab. One of the accused would book the cab through the mobile application and then it was driven by another accused to Bihar," said the police source. Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Romil Baaniya stated that the gang has a unique modus operandi of transporting illicit liquor from Gurugram to Bihar through Delhi. The team has recovered 20 cartons of illicit liquor. In a bid to expand their business, cab owners have obtained a fleet of vehicles registered in different states. To sustain in the competition, many cab owners allow their vehicles to users without the driver."In the past, the accused obtained the rental taxi and used it for the supply of illicit liquor. The accused preferred to hire new models of high-end cars to avoid the suspicion of transporting liquor," the police said.
Tech Savvy
Sources told Millennium Post that different modus operands have been used. One of them was the use of social media platforms like WhatsApp, which came to light after the arrest of a man in October 2017 from South Delhi. He had distributed his phone number in the area and was delivering liquor on demand. In another case, two law students were arrested. They had been selling foreign made costly liquor in high-end cars.
In the winter, liquor traffickers used the time of less visibility due to fog so that they could pass their vehicles carrying liquor. Police sources said that these gangs regularly change their modus operandi and their modes of transporting liquor across states can vary between vegetable carrier trucks to goods vans.
People involved in the illegal trade also change their timings of supply. During heavy police presence at night, smugglers will move in the afternoon hours. "Sometimes, they also send a man first on a motorcycle or car to check police presence in the streets. Later, the person gives signals to the vehicle carrying the liquor to move," said a police source.
The liquor traffickers have created a robust foundation for the delivery and movement of alocohol across state borders. While the police is tightening its noose with strict restrictions, several bootleggers are still at large making swift illegal money.

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