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On November 10, a 24-year-old university student was arrested by officers from Newtown Local Area Command, at the University of Sydney residence in Camperdown. He was arrested while collecting a package in the mail containing drugs he had ordered from the dark web. The police believe that the student planned to sell the drugs to other students. From the arrest the police seized just over 21g of Xanax and LSD, 15.8g of MDMA, 14.9g of cannabis and a replica pistol. The police spokeswoman said the officers used a range of tactics to monitor and detect the sale of prohibited drugs, she however did not comment on how they were monitoring the dark web.
The student has been charged with three counts of; supplying a prohibited drug and possession of prohibited drugs, possession or attempt to possess restricted drugs and possessing a replica firearm. The arrested student whose identity has not been revealed will face court on November 28. A University of Sydney spokeswoman said the staff were helping the police with their investigation. The spokeswoman also said that if found guilty the student is faced with potential suspension or expulsion.
The arrest comes months after the Australian Border Force (ABF) assigned investigators to the dark web in a bid to identify vendors and intercept the illicit goods packages before they get to the buyers. The ABF has particularly increased screening of packages entering Australia through its borders resulting to seizure of packaged drugs and subsequent arrests. In March a joint operation by the AFP and the ABF resulted in the seizure of 540 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed within 396 bottles labelled as protein powder. The seizure resulted to the arrest of 8 people.
A recent report by the Australian Criminal Intelligence commission (ACIC) on organized crime in Australia 2017, has indicated that the illicit drug market in Australia is highly facilitated by the internet and darknet. The report says that the darknet is responsible for the rapid expansion of the drug market globally. The darknet enables users to access drugs, information about availability and purity of new drugs and manufacturing manuals online. The Australian darknet drug trade is best seen as a component of the global market since trends observed in Europe, Canada and the United states are quickly replicated in Australia.
The ACIC report also shows that cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug while methamphetamine poses the highest level of risk in Australia, since the decline in heroin use in the early 2000s. In the past the methamphetamine market was supplied domestically, however there has been an increase in importation of the finished products.
A report by a group of researchers in February ranked Australia as the leading country in darknet drug trading, with more online drug vendors per capita than any other nation except the Netherlands. Australian dark web vendors account for over a quarter of methamphetamine traded on online markets.
The report also indicated that the Australian dark web drug trade resembles the online conventional illicit drug trade. According to the report cannabis is the most popular drug sold, representing a quarter of all recorded sales made by Australian vendors on the darknet markets. Cannabis is also the most commonly sold illegal drug in the conventional drugs trade as well. Men account for 82% of Australian dark web market users, while the average age of a darknet user is 22 years old. Australian vendors prefer online to street markets because; it is less costly, recent crackdown on methamphetamine trade by law enforcement and involvement of violence in organized crime and distribution of drugs.
Australian vendors sell their products for essentially the same prices that local Australian street dealers sell their products. Only Methamphetamine prices for Australian dark web vendors are cheaper than those of local street dealers, approximately by 45%. Intensified border protection by the ABF has led to increased interception and stoppage of drugs imported from foreign darknet vendors, this has resulted to unwillingness of Australian buyers to order from overseas buyers and are instead willing to pay higher prices of Australian vendors.