Drugs

India's ‘Crypto King’ Used Bitcoin to Help Drug Dealers Score From the Dark Web

Officials suspect he created a network to smuggle drugs like LSD, ecstasy and hydroponic weed from Europe into India.
SJ
Mumbai, IN
June 17, 2021, 9:38am
India's ‘Crypto King’ Used Bitcoin to Help Drug Dealers Score From the Dark Web
Collage: VICE / Images: stock photos of a person typing on keyboard (left) and person taking LSD (right) by Getty

Makarand Pardeep Adivirkar, known in India’s underground drug circuit as the “crypto king,” had created a system that served him well for a couple of years, until he was busted by the cops earlier this week. 

According to officials, drug dealers would pay Adivirkar in cash, after which the Mumbai-based IT graduate would allegedly use Bitcoin to score drugs from the dark web on their behalf. He would also take a cash commission for his efforts. 

“The dealer would transfer the amount to a friend’s bank account, and the friend would transfer it to a third person, who would withdraw cash and give it to [Adivirkar]” Sameer Wankhede, the zonal director of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) unit in Mumbai, told VICE on Thursday. “Then Adivirkar used his Bitcoin wallets to pay drug vendors in Poland and other European countries through the dark web.”

On the dark web, drug users transfer their payment in cryptocurrency and then receive the substances through postal services. A cryptocurrency – like the Bitcoin – is a decentralised digital currency that can be sent from user to user on a specific network without needing an intermediary like the central bank, making it difficult to trace and impossible to counterfeit. 

Adivirkar was known as the “crypto king” since his operation relied on cryptocurrency to facilitate drug deals. 

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Officials say Adivirkar’s drug transfer system was actively going on for more than two years, but it only came to light when the NCB, India’s federal drug enforcement agency, seized 20 LSD blots from an Indian village in November 2020. 

“We arrested five people with a commercial quantity of LSD made in Europe last November,” said Wankhede. 

According to Wankhede, the quality of the LSD made them suspicious that it was not made in India and may have involved the darknet, ultimately leading them to Adivirkar. 

“He had multiple Bitcoin wallets on platforms like [India’s biggest crypto exchange platform] WazirX, and facilitated payments for multiple drug dealer networks in India,” said Wankhede. 

WazirX denied claims that Adivirkar used their platform in a Friday statement. In response to questions about the denial on the same day, Wankhede said investigations were ongoing.

The NCB official said they were able to trace Adivirkar after an intelligence operation identified two suspicious transactions he made from his Bitcoin wallet. 

Officials suspect that he created a network and was helping multiple drug dealers smuggle substances like LSD, ecstasy, hydroponic weed and meth from Europe to India. 

As drug enforcement agencies in India crack down on cross-border drug smuggling operations, Indians are increasingly looking to the dark web to score. 

“It’s cheaper for them to buy these drugs on the dark web and then sell them in India for a higher profit,” said Wankhede. “It’s become a trend for rich kids and influencers who don’t want to [physically] meet a dealer to get drugs.” 

The 2020 edition of the Global Drug Survey, the world’s largest drug survey, found that the percentage of people who reported buying their drugs from dark web vendors had tripled since 2014. 

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This article has been updated to include WazirX’s statement.