India is worried about increasing amounts of drug trafficking with anti-narcotics agencies decrying an increase in syndicates trading on the darknet using the digital currency bitcoin.
“For the first time we have detected drug traffickers using darknet and Bitcoin for running the racket in India. Some of these operatives are based in the country. We are probing them,” said an Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) officer.
The darknet allows an anonymized version of the clearnet to be accessible only with certain software, such as Tor. The Times of India insinuated Bitcoin was not legal by calling it a digital money people use to get around “legal banking channels.”
NCB officials said:”The use of such ultra-secret measures is worrying but we are enhancing our capabilities to effectively and timely detect these instances.”
This marks the first time India has acknowledged the prevalence of black markets being used for the drug trade. Bitcoin has made international headlines due to darknet marketplaces such as Silk Road, where millions of dollars in mostly cannabis was traded before the founder, Ross Ulbricht, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Since then, the safety of darknet marketplaces have been questioned by users.
Bitcoin has had a colorful history in India. In December 2013, Bitcoin exchanges halted operations after the government warned users. Authorities thereafter sought many ways to regulate Bitcoin. There are many India startups that focus on Bitcoin, such as Unocoin. In 2015, a hackathon around blockchain technology took place at the Bombay Stock Exchange.
In 2015, the Reserve Bank of India’s Governor and two of its deputy governors met about Bitcoin. They released a statement. Deputy governor Shri R Gandhi said:
“Digital currencies and crowdfunding have the potential to support criminal, anti-social activities like money laundering, terrorist funding and tax evasion. While we do not have any reported instances of crowdfunding in this respect, cryptocurrencies have been widely suspected to finance criminal activities. We have to be carefully and critically watching these developments.”
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