Additional crime fighting resources are needed to tackle online drug markets fuelling Victoria’s growing ice problem, a parliamentary committee has recommended.
The committee’s year-long inquiry into methamphetamine tabled its 54 recommendations in Parliament on Wednesday.
It found there had been a significant rise in the use of crystal methamphetamine, the more potent and dangerous form of the drug, particularly among people in their 20s.
The report said organised crime gangs, including bikies, were involved in the trafficking and distribution of ice, and their involvement in the online drug marketplace needed further investigating.
“A particularly disturbing development that has been apparent in recent years has been that of organised crime groups using online networks to facilitate the sale and distribution of drugs such as methamphetamine,” the report found.
US law enforcement agencies shut down the notorious anonymous online marketplace known as the Silk Road last year, but online sales of drugs have continued to boom.
‘Almost impossible’ to detect online drug transactions
AFP assistant commissioner Ramzi Jabbour told the committee authorities faced significant challenges in keeping on top of drugs being sold on the web.
“Because of the way the [sites are] set up it is nearly impossible to detect who the true supplier is and who made the request,” he said.
“If you look at Silk Road, for example, that site was effectively shut down by US authorities once we became aware of it.
“That said, there are other sites out there where you can go online and purchase narcotics from overseas suppliers.
“Where the site is housed is another issue for us in the wonderful world of cybercrime. It depends on where the server is housed as to who has jurisdiction to be able to take action against the person who established it.”
The committee found police were not the only ones battling to keep on top of the problem.
Australia Post’s general manager of group security Scott Staunston told the committee about the sheer volume of the packages coming through the mail.
“The process with the 180 million inbound international articles is essentially that they come off the plane in bags or air containers; however they are delivered to us,” he said.
“They are then taken to Customs before they go anywhere else.
“They do their screening examination to the extent that they are able to or wish to, then it goes to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries quarantine.
“We do not then do anything else to those 180 million items in terms of looking at them for evidence that they may contain drugs or prohibited items.”
More research needed into online drug market
The report said despite the growing awareness about internet drug sales, more information was needed about they operate and how authorities could work more closely together to identify drugs coming into Victoria in the mail.
“Online drug market research by academic scholars could be more readily undertaken to develop a general understanding of areas such as known websites which advertise drugs, preferred type of payment methods and delivery mechanisms,” the report recommended.
It suggested a special Australian Crime Commission operation be set up to focus specifically on the sale and distribution of ice on the internet.
It also called for the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council to investigate the way ice was being imported into Australian through these markets.
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