Online drug sellers now using bitcoin and ride-sharing apps

In a recent hearing by House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, it was found that peddlers of illegal drugs are using the Internet to accept payments with bitcoin and using transport network companies such as Uber and Grab to transport them.

The House Committee on Dangerous Drugs conducting the hearing

The House Committee on Dangerous Drugs conducting the hearing

Police Chief Superintendent Graciano Mijarez told the House panel that they arrested a Korean national by the name of Jun No who sold illegal drugs through the “dark Web” and used bitcoin to accept payments. He delivered the contraband using ride-hailing apps such as Grab and Uber.

Surigao del Norte representative and committee chairman Robert Ace Barbers said the matter is greatly affecting the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

During the hearing, Barbers mentioned the arrest of one Jovet Trance Atillano, alias OJ, by the police in a condominium unit in Mandaluyong City last September 19.

Barbers said, according to police report, Atillano was selling illegal drugs on-line and hired the services of Uber and Grab drivers to deliver illegal drugs concealed inside packages.

The authorities seized from Atillano about P1 million worth of ecstacy and P180 million worth of shabu and pieces of Valium and the regulated drug Mogadon, said Barbers.

Under this scheme, Barbers said, the modus operandi of the drug syndicates is that they will register in the mobile-based application of transport network companies using fictitious names and pre-activated SIM cards to avoid detection and apprehension.

“While drug syndicates walk scot-free, the hapless TNVS (transport network vehicle service) drivers will end up facing various charges before the appropriate courts,” said Barbers.

Whatever the result of the investigation on the matter, Barbers said this will surely aid the committee in amending the provisions of Republic Act 9165 or the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.”

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director Czerina Aquino said tech-savvy drug rings have learned to use the services of ride-hailing apps to transport drugs to their clients.

“Based on reports, ‘yung mga customers ni Atillano nago-order sa kanya through on-line. And upon online payments, through bank-to-bank or credit card transactions, nagde-deliver sya ng illegal drugs using Grab or Uber. Basically it’s an on-line transaction,” said Aquino.

Ako Bicol party-list representative Rodel Batocabe said criminals are getting more sophisticated and technologically advanced.

“I think PDEA, you should also anticipate that. We will support your budget for an expanded IT, a modern IT in order to run after these drug dealers, now using the Internet or advances in technology,” said Batocabe.

At the same time, Batocabe moved that the committee issue a subpoena to Uber and Grab.

Negros Oriental representative Arnolfo Teves Jr. said the main problem is the identification of the suspect because of his fake account and prepaid number.

Barbers said the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) should take the lead role in coordinating and harmonizing with the functions of other law enforcement agencies related to information technology.

He reiterated that the primary purpose of HB 3406 is to amend the 52-year old law, RA 4200 or the “Anti-Wire Tapping Law,” in order to have a successful apprehension and prosecution of people involved in drug trafficking.

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