For decades, Haji Taslim ran a profitable family business from the basement of his home. Together, Taslim, his wife Nasheen, their two sons and two son-in-laws managed to keep their illegal drug operation afloat for 30 years, 60 miles from India’s capital in a city called Meerut.
Over the weekend, police raided Taslim’s house as they had done dozens of times before over the last 19 years. This time, though, they finally arrested Taslim and members of his family.
The police are confident the charges will stick this time around, because they discovered the heart of their operation: a secret basement.
Somewhere in the house was a hidden passage to a basement that the cops believe Taslim and his family used in order to evade previous raids. In the secret basement, police found about 40 kilograms of marijuana and smack, a black tar-like form of heroin.
“He was the most-wanted drug peddler in the area. He has 30 other cases, including extortion, and a reward on his head,” Suraj Kumar Rai, the Uttar Pradesh police officer supervising the investigation, told VICE World News. “His entire family was involved in the operation. They would each pick one day of the week to sell the drugs, and then share the income together.”
Rai believes their breakthrough came when they were able to weed out powerful elements who were helping Taslim. “When he built his operation in the 1990s, he paid commissions to locals or police officials as protection,” said Rai.
The family had been clever about their drug operations, which had a customer base that extended to the capital, New Delhi. According to Rai, Taslim’s family often sold drugs through children, who wouldn’t have faced harsh sentences if they were caught.
“They also used 7-year-old or 8-year-old kids from [poor] families,” said Rai.
The police arrested Taslim, Nasheen, one son and one son-in-law for violating national drug laws. Taslim will also be tried under the state’s gang laws, which could land him in jail for at least ten years.
During the arrests, police found a scooter meant for people with disabilities. They believe Taslim used it to disguise himself as a person with disabilities.
Taslim was arrested on drug charges in 2002 and spent three years in jail.
While he was in jail, his wife Nasheen took control of the drug operation and became his business partner. Their son and son-in-law were key parts of the operation. Police currently have four members of the family in custody.