By Rhys Blakely,Mumbai
(source: Times UK Online)
The story has all the elements of an airport potboiler: a tropical beach setting; a heavily tattooed Israeli drugs dealer; a handful of corrupt detectives; and a Swedish model-cum-Bollywood dancer who goes by the name of “Lucky”.
When Yaniv Banaim, an Israeli drugs dealer working in the western Indian state of Goa, boasted to a pneumatic Swedish blonde of how he regularly received large amounts of cannabis and ecstasy from the Anti Narcotics Cell (ANC) of the local police force, he did not suspect that he was being filmed. He certainly did not expect the woman in question — Lucky Nova Mangarda Amori — to post the incriminating footage on YouTube.
The confession — which contained a detailed explanation of how drugs confiscated by the ANC are allegedly sold back to dealers in Goa — has sparked a corruption scandal that threatens to expose several senior police chiefs. For now, six ANC officers have been suspended while corruption and drugs charges are investigated.
“The ANC can’t touch me. The ANC I pay a lot of money to,” Mr Banaim, who has also been arrested, said on the tape. “This narcotics chief. Big chief. Maybe he is one giving drugs — all the time he is giving me five kilograms charas; ecstasy,” he added in broken English. The confession appears to prove what had long been suspected: that some police in Goa are in cahoots with the region’s drugs barons. Suspicions of serious corruption have been fanned by the police’s failure to track down Ms Amori, a potential star witness. R. S. Yadav, the Deputy Inspector General of Police in Goa, told The Times that he was “anxiously” seeking the Swedish model and had asked Interpol to assist in tracking her down. “We really want her statement,” he said. “If you speak to her, would you let us know?” In fact, Ms Amori has been trying to carve out a Bollywood career in Mumbai, a 50-minute flight from Goa, where she has worked as a dancer on several high-profile films. Her motives for exposing the alleged links between drugs dealers and the police are not clear, but in the latest entry on her blog, posted this week, she said: “Still no sign of any police or Interpol. It’s very easy to get in contact with me. [Especially] when they know where I live, have my phone number, e-mail etc.” Her video sting has exposed the seamier side of one of India’s leading tourist destinations. Once a Portugese colony, Goa became a part of the hippy trail in the 1960s. Cheap package deals and all-night beach parties attracted Britons in the 1990s. Today it is especially popular with young Israelis and Russians. In March, another alleged Israeli drugs dealer, David Driham, whose alias is “Dudu”, claimed to have paid bribes to police. He was arrested while in the possession of ecstasy, heroin, cocaine, liquid LSD and charas. “I can manage with Customs, courts and police in India, as it is a very corrupt society,” he said, according to a leaked account of his police interrogation. Drugs and police shortcomings also played a role in the murder of Scarlett Keeling, the British 15-year-old girl found dead on one of the state’s most popular beaches in February 2008. Last month, as the trial of two men charged with her murder began, a lawyer acting for Scarlett’s mother, Fiona MacKeown, told The Times that he still believed that police officers were protecting other suspects with links to the drugs trade. “There are other people who should be in the dock,” said Vikram Varma, a Supreme Court lawyer who has represented Mrs MacKeown since the start of the case. “There is a very strong cartel involving police and drug traders. The forces out to protect the criminals are very powerful.”
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