igerian nationals are making their presence felt in Mumbai's crime scene, with their activities ranging from drug peddling, internet phishing and "black dollar" duping. Many of these Nigerians come on tourist visas for two months, but stay on illegally. Others come on student visas. The immigration department is clueless about how many Nigerians live in the city illegally. Mumbai's Anti-Narcotics Cell has been capturing four-five Nigerian drug peddlers every month. Three Nigerian men were arrested at Reay Road station on 21 March for peddling drugs. The police recovered 100 gm of cocaine worth Rs 6 lakh from them. All three, Okoye Chukwanonso Emanual, 32, Oodile Ezike Syril, 31 and Wisdom Yugochukwu Nwanakwo, 32, have been remanded to custody until 1 April.
According to the Anti-Narcotics Cell, many of these men, and some women, deal in adulterated drugs that are sold in public places or at rave parties. "They mostly sell cocaine mixed with large quantities of lactose powder. Every gram of cocaine is mixed with 4 gm of lactose powder, which is then sold in the market for Rs 3,000 upward," said senior Anti-Narcotics inspector Sunil Kavlekar.
"Black dollar", a relatively recent phenomenon, is being used by some Nigerian gangs to dupe several Mumbai and Pune businessmen, say Crime Branch officers. "Fake American dollars covered in black paint are smuggled into India. Each note is then sold at 50-60% lower than its 'actual value'. For example, in the present exchange rate, the value of $1 is Rs 55. These gangs sell the dollar for Rs 25 to the purchaser. These black notes are cleaned in front of the buyer by dipping them in a solution to convince him that he is buying a genuine dollar note for half the price. In reality, it is a fake dollar, which is difficult to spot," said a Crime Branch officer. He said that the CID arrested a team dealing in black dollars from Navi Mumbai. Navi Mumbai is a popular haunt for these "black dollar" gangs because of its proximity to the JNPT port, the APMC market and numerous ship breaking yards around Kalamboli where black-marketers are looking for easy means to convert their black money into white.
Kavlekar said that various Nigerian gangs stay in groups in flats in Navi Mumbai and the residential colonies in Koparkhainar, as well as in the suburbs of Mira Road, Bhayander, Vasai and Nallasopara. He added that apprehending them is a problem primarily because they are not only tall and well built, but also fast runners. "It takes four-five policemen to catch hold of one Nigerian. They do not attack us but slip away. So we find it difficult to keep pace with them," said Kavlekar. Policemen generally plan their raids by keeping a watch and forcing their way into the flats whenever one of the gang members comes out or goes in. Some Nigerian women apparently also act as drug mules and are equally difficult to catch hold of.
Iqbal Mahadik, president of Mira Bhayander Jagruti Sanstha said that they have asked the Mumbai police to take strict action against such elements and issue orders to real estate agents not to give flats to them on rent. "Many real estate agents give the flats to Nigerians who come on student visas and charge them between Rs 7,000 and Rs 15,000 a month. There have even been cases where some Nigerian men have entered into marriages of convenience with Indian women and purchased flats and continued to stay," Mahadik alleged. He added that residential societies in Mira Road's Naya Nagar area drove away a few such men in the last couple of months.
"The Special Branch, which keeps a check on the entry and exit of foreign nationals in Mumbai, is in a shambles. There is no actual data available to this day as to how many Nigerians are living illegally in the city," the Crime Branch officer said.