Drug dealers flood dark web as virus stifles sales
Cops are catching drug dealers deep in the dark web as the crooks go online to beat the coronavirus lockdown.
The giant online marketplace has replaced clubs, pubs and dance festivals, NSW Police State Crime boss Stuart Smith has revealed.
"Those platforms are being flooded with people selling illicit drugs," Assistant Commissioner Smith said.
"What's happening online is enormous.
"The customer adjusts and the marketplace adjusts and we are seeing a rise on the dark web. That is their doorway."
He said the force's cybercrime unit was making real inroads into searching the dark web after the arrest last year of a 25-year-old from the south coast, allegedly the country's biggest online drug dealer with 11,000 online customers and a "five star" rating.
"We are seeing significant growth in the dark web, significant growth," Mr Smith said.
He said there continued to be "a number of ongoing police operations" deep online since the pandemic hit on March 9.
Evidence from admissions to emergency department and rehabilitation and addiction services showed COVID-19 had not stopped the demand for drugs but the use had plateaued because of the lockdown.
MDMA, cocaine and LSD remain the most prevalent and police have also seen the emergence of painkillers like fentanyl, which is 50 to 100-times stronger than morphine, and carfentanil, itself 100 times the strength of fentanyl.
"People are sitting at home, they would normally go to the pub to buy drugs, and now they have them delivered to their door which is why we are seeing a rise in cyber activity," Mr Smith, the corporate spokesperson for the police's illicit drug strategy, said.
Business was done behind encrypted sites and often paid for by cryptocurrency.
He said cocaine remained the drug of choice for metropolitan Sydney - about two tonnes a year according to waste water analysis - while regional NSW remained the biggest market for ICE - three tonnes a year.
Over the past three weeks, joint operations between NSW Police, the Australian Federal Police, NSW Crime Commission and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission have netted 420kg of cocaine, a tonne of the drug ice on a yacht and $80 million worth of ice found hidden in drink bottles.
Mr Smith said while drugs were still being imported, border lockdowns had presented "challenges" to dealers who were having to improvise.
"They have to get their product to their market and they have to protect their market," he said.
"There is always a transportation solution."
Highway patrol officers with the anti-bikie Strike Force Raptor and the Australian Border Force seized $2.75 million cash in five shopping bags in the cabin area of a prime mover along with cannabis when it stopped at a service station at Yass two weeks ago. Police allege the 52-year South Australian driver moving the money from Adelaide to Sydney.
Originally published as Drug dealers flood dark web as virus stifles sales