Goa: Sex & Mafia on Cocaine Coast
Yaniv Benaim aka Atala, the most colourful of Goa's Israeli drug dons, made headlines with a video on YouTube. His Swedish model-girlfriend named Lucky Farmhouse alias Amori posted the grainy, shaky video clip that became an instant Internet must-watch.
An Israeli drug peddler revealed that policemen supplied him drugs stolen from a police godown. His arrest led to Goa's first drug-related gang war.
In the video, Atala speaks about his drug operation and how Goan police on his payroll advised him of ways to avoid getting caught - don't buy a cellphone in your own name and change phone numbers frequently because your calls are monitored. "This is the mafia," is how Atala describes the confederacy of crime between the police, politicians and the drug cartels.
The amateur video shows him speaking candidly about his arrangements with Anti-Narcotics Cell policemen, including Senior Inspector Ashish Shirodkar. "Nobody can touch me because I pay a lot of money," said Atala. He was arrested immediately. So were six policemen, including Shirodkar. Twenty-four kilos of hashish had disappeared from the anti-narcotics warehouse on their watch. Atala confessed that the police had sold the drugs back to him. Goa's Home Minister Ravi Naik explained that the vanished drugs were "eaten by white ants".
In the wake of the Atala scandal, skeletons tumbled out of Goa's political closet. The Opposition alleges that Naik and son Roy are linked to the drug mafia - a charge both deny. Amori claims she possesses a tape of her lover bribing a powerful Goan politician's son. The state is yet to send an investigator to Sweden to interrogate her and is resisting all opposition demands for a CBI enquiry. Atala was convicted of drug possession in 2006, but managed to avoid deportation by going underground.
The side effect of Atala's arrest was the first gang-related murder in Goa. The police say a local bar owner at Anjuna, Sanprit Malvankar, was killed by a gun-for-hire for helping them trap the Israeli gangster. Things got murkier when police later caught a criminal who was allegedly given a 'supari' by a south Goa politician to kill Roy. More than the politics of drugs, it is the economics that is mind-boggling.
The Enforcement Directorate is currently probing 400 cases of real es tate purchased illegally by foreigners,mostly Russians, using dirty money.
Goa has become a principal hub of the international drug trade, apart from being a known centre of consumption. The happy-drug addict-syndrome that has made it a haven for tourists is a minute part of the story. Those in this lucrative trade estimate that drugs flowing out of AfPak are worth over Rs 5,000 crore. Most of it now lands on the comparatively unprotected Goa coastline. Mumbai and its hinterland are no longer a favourite landing area since the checks by the Coastguard, Navy, customs patrols and internal security have become more stringent post-26/11.
As a result, Goa has turned into the favoured transhipment point for drug markets in South-east Asia, Africa and Europe. The police say that a large number of foreigners- mostly Russians arriving on chartered flights - bring in the drugs to Goa. However, 70 per cent of the drugs still arrive by sea.
Foreigners who stay back manufacture synthetic drugs locally. The heady party drug, the CK1 pill, has become a craze in Goa. It is a combination of cocaine and Ketamine. Sold on North Goa beaches under the pseudonyms 'Blizzard' and 'Calvin Klein', CK1 is readily available in Candolim, Baga, Calangute, Anjuna, Vagator and Arambol. These synthetic drugs are also exported back to India at higher rates; the traffic controlled by drug dons like Atala who enjoy political patronage.
The Opposition accuses the state police of being hand in glove with drug dealers. Compared to the size of the drug trade, drug hauls by law enforcement agencies are infinistimal in volume. In 2008, Goa's Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) seized drugs worth Rs 77.43 lakh. Last year marked the biggest haul ever - 64.28 kg of drugs worth Rs 1.17 crore was seized and 22 foreigners arrested.
Sinful pleasures are available at Goa's rave and dusk-to-dawn beach parties, most of which take place at the 320 beach shacks along a three-km sandy stretch in north Goa.
This year 46 kg of hallucinogens, including charas, ganja, cocaine and Ecstasy tablets, worth Rs 76 lakh was apprehended. "Goa isn't exactly a haven for drug trafficking because it is nowhere on the scale of Punjab or even Delhi's Paharganj," says Veenu Bansal, superintendent of police, ANC, Goa. Political sources in Panjim say that the insignificant size of drug busts is because gangsters like Atala have powerful political links.
The residents of Goa whisper that the real scandal is the political mafia they vote for. Edwin Nunes, a local political heavyweight is one example of the politics-drugs network. He owns Curlies, a flourishing restaurant on south Anjuna beach.
The double-storied shack restaurant-bar-hookah joint played a part in the sordid Scarlett Keeling rape and murder saga. Keeling had e-mailed a Spanish friend that boys at Curlies had showed her porn on their cellphones and tried to rape her. A few days later, her body was found near another shack Luis, which was later shut down as it was unable to face the heat.
Curlies, however, continues to hold rave parties, play loud music late into the night and people openly peddle and consume drugs inside - activities legally banned in Goa. Owner Nunes was the sarpanch of Anjuna panchayat when the Keeling tragedy happened. He is still a powerful panchayat member.
In this tiny state of 13 lakh people, panchayats exercise considerable clout over local police and politicians. It is next to impossible to isolate the politicians from the drug scene in Goa. In some cases, they are semi-owners of illegal nightclubs. Some, like the Congress MLA from Calangute, Agnelo Fernandes, owns part of the land on which the Paradiso night club in Anjuna stands. Popular for its rave parties, it is built on encroached land owned by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC).
Questions have been raised in the Goa Assembly many times, but Paradiso continues to party on. The court passed an eviction order on the club for not having paid rent arrears of Rs 25 lakh to GTDC to no effect. "Foreigners are just a convenient front for the mafia within the Government to carry on their business," says Vikram Varma, a Goa-based Supreme Court lawyer.
Yet foreigners play a significant role in Goa's politician-drug cartel nexus. Until the first part of this decade, British and Israelis controlled Goa's drug trade. Nigerians are minor players, mainly as couriers with local connections. According to drug dealer Tony (name changed), the Russians have taken over the trade in a big way in the past five years. "Israelis are still active and more visible than the Russians, but are now getting edged out of the business," he says. Tony admits the Russians have changed the rules of the game. "We are facing the heat because of that," he adds.
Russia is now the narcotic superpower of the world and the Russian mafia (Russkaya Mafiya) organised enough to face the Russian narcotic juggernaut. This tourist season, more than 55,000 Russians are expected on 800 chartered flights - even from small cities like Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk. This month, Aeroflot starts its first direct flight to Goa expecting custom from well-heeled Russian tourists.
Hundreds of tourists from Kazakhstan are also coming to Goa. Last year, there was only one chartered flight from Astana, the Kazak capital. This time, the number will go up to 30. The scale of the drug trade in the state is evident by the watch being kept on passengers and crew of chartered tourist flights that land in Goa during the October to March tourist surge. Many of them stay back and are either peddlers or users.
The police say a major reason why Russian criminals flourish in the state is due to a favourable narcotic ecosystem that combines lax law enforcement and corrupt authorities. Russian druglords also lose themselves in the anonymity of the crowds of Russian tourists thronging Goa. In Morjim and Palolem, nearly 10,000 Russians live in small enclaves that are dubbed 'Little Russia' by the locals.
Real estate is the front behind which the Russian mafia hides in Goa. They try to legalise their presence by setting up companies in partnerships with locals. Recently, True Axis Resorts, a firm with Russian and Indian partners, was found guilty of violating the Reserve Bank of India rules and the Foreign Exchange Management Act. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) fined them Rs 6 crore. Their four holdings totalling 22 lakh sq m- the size of 204 football fields - were seized and the buildings sealed.
A senior ED official discloses that they routinely track huge amounts of money moved by Russianbacked real estate companies to Goa from tax havens like Cyprus, Mauritius and Cayman Islands in order to purchase realty in coastal villages. "We can only catch them through their property transactions,'' he adds. ED investigations found that these companies had conducted no stated business or filed income tax returns. Tasha, a Russian pimp and drug dealer in Goa, confides that he has invested "a lot of money" in real estate along the northern coastal belt, particularly near Arambol. Locals are angry that foreigners occupy large tracts of Goa. "These land deals are facilitated by the Government and Goans are losing ownership of prime agriculture land to the Russian mafia who want to turn Goa into a global prostitution hub," alleges Rajan Ghate, a local politician and activist.
But why aren't these Russians getting caught? An African drug dealer explains that it is because Russians guard their privacy fiercely; avoid mingling with others and supply only to their own kind. Again, these are not the only reasons why Russians favour Goa. "It is not only a foreign tourist magnet but also a favoured tourist getaway for well-to-do travellers from Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore," says Mumbai-based drug dealer Vikas (name changed).
In the past four years, Russian gangs have virtually sewn up the Goan market for high-quality drugs like cocaine. He says Indian and Nigerians adulterate their stuff with boric acid and talcum powder, but Russians offer pure coke. "Customers will pay more if it is a Russian who is selling," Vikas says. "You can stay high on their stuff for two days."
Drugs are not the only high on offer in Goa. Sex is an organised market run by the mafia and women traffickers from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The state Government shut down Baina - Goa's original redlight area that catered to locals - five years ago. The trade is now taken over by girls from Russia and the 'Stans'.
On Anjuna beach, Valentina, a slender 23-year-old Russian 'tourist' is willing to play white girlfriend. For $1,000 a day she will party, skinny-dip and sleep with you. "You will not regret it," she promises. "I will get you a 15 per-cent discount on dope. And a 2-by-2 inch tattoo free for a two-day stay." She has a simpler deal too. "Pay $600 for a night. Get a friend, too, if you want." There is a price tag for everything. Even if it's a cuddly photograph of you with a wet bikini-clad blonde on the beach. "Fifty dollars," says 22-year-old Galina from Tashkent. She is here with her sister to party -"lot of drugs and sex". Tall, with broad cheekbones, Galina says she is in Goa to make some serious money. It is her first week and she is already booked for five nights by an Italian man in his late thirties.
The rate for sex goes up depending on the duration, quality and requirements. To avoid the complex currency conversions, all prices are in dollars. Curly haired Hami, a Russian girl wearing a tight short outfit that shows off her toned figure, is ready to mingle. "Goa is confusing. Everybody is boringly nice; you need someone who can take care of you here and make sure you have a party going," she utters memorised clichÃ©s in broken English. Hami is in Goa on a tourist visa and is expecting her cousins and friends from Moscow and Almaty to join her soon. All of them plan to take rooms in Morjim. She says she can deal with five clients on a good day. The Israelis haven't completely given up. In Anjuna, a 55-year-old Israeli pimp and drug peddler named Marques hawks girls from his country with a unique sales pitch. "At $200 to $300, my women are cheaper than the Russians but a lot sexier in bed," he grins.
But the Israeli pales in comparison to flamboyant Russians like Sergei. "I'm a Goan," grins the 55-year-old six-foot-tall muscular Russian who thunders around on a Royal Enfield motorcycle along north Goa's picturesque Anjuna beach. He claims to be a former KGB operative and a onestop shop for drugs and girls. "I have imported around 1,000 girls from Russia and Uzbekistan," he brags. An unbuttoned half-sleeved jacket reveals a spider web of tattoos, including a Griffin on his chest. "I don't like big cities; they have big problems," he says in thickly accented English why he loves Goa. At a beach shack, he guides a group of five boys to an open party in near Vagator beach where "girls are waiting to get pampered". Afandee, an Israeli tourist in her late twenties, has been a regular visitor to Goa for five years. "Sex for cash, gambling, orgies, drugs and homosexuality, we do it all," she says, puffing a hash pipe. "Sin is our way to salvation."
Sinful pleasures are available at Goa's raves and dusk-to-dawn beach parties. These are the retail haven for drug pushers. Most such big parties take place at the 320 beach shacks on a three-km sandy stretch of north Goa. Many who overdose on drugs are rushed to Dr Jawaharlal Henriques' rehab clinic in Siolim, not far from the Anjuna beach.
He gets around 80 to 90 cases every tourist season. Once, three tourists - a Swede, an Italian and a British woman - were brought in dead. The latest arrival was a young Mumbai businessman who snorted too much coke and was brought to the clinic frothing at the mouth. Unable to cope with the steady flow of patients, the 62-year-old psychiatrist has added another wing with 70 beds to his clinic. "Some foreigners are so big in size that they create problems," he sighs.
Once a drug-addled Russian, who happened to be built like a boxer, flew into a paranoid rage in his clinic. It took 20 policemen to subdue him. Along with violence, Goa is also laden with irony. Seventy-seven-yearold British national Paul and his 65-year-old wife Janet hold ration cards that introduce them as the children of their landlords, Jose and Albertina Periera. The Perieras are in their early thirties. The British couple continues to live in a village in Bardez as bonafide ration holders but with UK passports, untroubled by the administration. They are the least of the worries for a state firmly in the grip of drugs and organised crime.
source: India Today