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Australian drug dealers are cashing in on booming “dark web” marketplaces, where buying illicit substances is cheap and convenient, and it’s virtually impossible to be caught.
In a joint news.com.au and Storyful investigation, the extent of the domestic online drugs trade has been revealed, with everything from cocaine to hospital-grade fentanyl on offer.
With little fuss and minimal risk, users can access mega stores that work much like eBay or Amazon, housing different merchants who promote their wares alongside star ratings, written feedback and even customer satisfaction guarantees.
And experts say business is booming, with Aussie users making up the largest cohort per capita of dark web drug buyers in the world.
“From all the indicators that we have, the dark web drugs trade is bigger than it’s ever been in Australia,” Swinburne University of Technology criminology Associate Professor James Martin told news.com.au.
“We’re seeing big increases in domestic trade, with the number of Australian sellers increasing.”
Drugs from Australian-based sellers available on a dark web marketplace.
‘ANYTHING YOU WANT’
In the same way legitimate bricks and mortar retailers once moved their operations online, a growing number of enterprising drug dealers are now embracing e-commerce too.
A review of dark web marketplaces yielded hundreds of results for Australian-based operators that sell a variety of illicit substances almost exclusively to locals.
Street drugs like cocaine, MDMA, ecstasy and marijuana were readily available, as were highly addictive substances like crystal methamphetamine and heroin.
One seller advertising themselves as “a longstanding top Aussie MDMA” vendor boasted more than 1000 positive buyer reviews in the last six months alone.
A growing number of Australian drug dealers are turning to the dark web to sell their wares.
Another vendor with a similar sales history described themselves as “an Australian seller of high-quality pharmaceutical prescription drugs”. MDMA Ecstasy local delivery in Australia, MDMA local distributor in Queensland, Best MDMA vendor in Victoria, MDMA supplier Sydney, Melbourne
One of the largest Australian sellers on a major marketplace, who primarily deals ketamine, cocaine and amphetamines, has more than 1000 positive recent reviews and claims to have been active on other website, including several that are now defunct.
And one dealer who trades exclusively in crystal meth promised the “best service possible” and product “direct from the top of the chain”, with 350 positive reviews this month.
Analysis by news.com.au and Storyful of one marketplace, regarded as the biggest dark web operator in the world, found more than 60 Australian listings for ketamine, much of it advertised as being imported from India, a major producer of the dissociative.
Also available were GHB — a psychoactive and well-known “date rape” drug — and even pentobarbital, used in Texas death row execution cocktails.
Worryingly, marketplaces also had fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100-times stronger than morphine, and and carfentanil, an incredibly potent synthetic painkiller, itself 100 times the strength of fentanyl.
Both those drugs have contributed strongly to the prescription abuse crisis in the United States, which has resulted in an explosion in opioid-related deaths.
Extremely dangerous drugs like fentanyl are readily available from Australian sellers.
Journalist Eileen Ormsby, who authored the book Darkest Web and has researched online black markets for the better part of a decade, said the sale of extremely dangerous substances such as fentanyl was a relatively recent trend.
“It’s terrifying,” she said. “I don’t know why it’s popped up quite a bit recently, but I’d say it has a lot to do with price.”
Typically, the most popular drugs traded online are MDMA, cocaine and ecstasy, while cannabis was also a hot seller, Ms Ormsby said.
‘NO REAL RISK’
The dark web is a part of the internet not found via search engines, where sites are housed on overlay networks that require specific software, configurations or authorisation to access.
Users who buy drugs from overseas run the risk of their packages being intercepted by Australian Border Force at mail processing centres. Increasingly, sophisticated detection techniques are being employed in a bid to slow the flow of imports. MDMA Ecstasy local delivery in Victoria, MDMA local distributor in Australia, Best MDMA vendor in Queensland, MDMA supplier NSW, MelbourneMDMA Ecstasy local delivery in Victoria, MDMA local distributor in Australia, Best MDMA vendor in Queensland, MDMA supplier NSW, Melbourne
But in the domestic mail system, Dr Martin said there was no real risk to either sellers or buyers.
“Intercepting drugs sent within Australia is complicated, especially when you’re talking about small quantities,” he said.
Long-term dark web sellers boast of their shipping techniques and detection-free track records.
One local operator that news.com.au and Storyful found proudly proclaimed that they “haven’t had a package intercepted ever” and explained that his drugs were vacuum sealed, alcohol rubbed and cleverly disguised.
RELATED: What exactly is the dark web?
This Australian seller deals exclusively in crystal meth, or ice, and has more than 1300 happy customers in the last six months alone.
Another vendor detailed that parcels are sent both express from New South Wales, with delivery in one-to-two business days, or by regular mail, arriving in up to 10 days.
“Products are shipped within NSW using express (Australia Post),” the seller said.
“Outside of NSW we use regular mail for your safety in case of a blitz (unless you tell us to send Express from NSW and want to risk a blitz). We have recently set up a second location within QLD for MDMA. If you wish to have it sent within QLD it will cost extra.”
The lower risk of detection when receiving drugs from Australian-based sellers was one of the main reasons the domestic trade has boomed, Dr Martin said.
“As the market gets bigger and more saturated, there’s even less need to buy from international dealers,” he said.
Ms Ormsby said there was “pretty much no chance” of a domestic parcel being subjected to scrutiny unless authorities had specific intelligence.
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