Monday 20 November 2017

Darknet drugs trade: Sellers offer 'dog-proof' packages of drugs in return for bitcoins

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Stock picture

Eamon Dillon

The illegal drug ­business is like any other trade and criminals are using the internet to find ­customers and sell their wares.

There are hidden websites, part of the so-called darknet used by international drug dealers, in which users can browse through ­thousands of deals on offer.

At any given time, every ­illegal drug and ­pharmaceutical is on sale, ­available for delivery ­anywhere in the world.

Using Tor software allows ­internet access to what is known as the darknet - web pages that don't show up through normal browsers and search engines.

The best dealers have lots of comments from satisfied ­customers, while the scam artists are singled out for abuse.

This week, sellers claiming to be in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands promised to send "dog-proof" packages of drugs in return for bitcoins.

Bitcoins are the ­untraceable ­online currency that allow websites users to maintain their anonymity.

The prices for 'top-grade' cannabis are competitive compared to what's available on the streets in Ireland, according to sources.

It's impossible to know how much drugs are imported through the postal system but a seizure last May of €80,000 worth of cannabis highlights how it is obviously a profitable business.

In December, investigators seized 6,000 diazepam tablets which had been posted from west Africa.

The scale of the drugs business is staggering.

One darknet website has 20,000 items for sale under the category 'drugs'.

These include deals such as '1g high-quality Bolivian cocaine' for $80 (€74) and '5g amphetamine paste, 100pc speed 74pc pure' for $33. The darknet and its users are becoming more sophisticated, adding layers of security and ­encryption to surf sites that can't be found using ordinary software.

But this hidden part of the internet is just one part of drug dealers' digital marketing ­strategy.

A simple Google search reveals small-time dealers ready to do business selling cannabis or prescription tablets.

Regular customers are frequently contacted by texts or via social media apps by drug dealers offering "buy 2 get 1 free" deals and other marketing ploys well-known to legitimate retailers.

Last month two Irish drug dealers were jailed after their online business was discovered following a crackdown by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the darknet website site known as the Silk Road. They were charged with ­possessing drugs worth €143,000 after a garda raid on a Dublin business premises in October 2014.

During the recent criminal trial, Detective Sergeant Brian Roberts said of their online business that "it's a new phenomenon that's growing and ultimately the modern era of drug dealing".

Judge Nolan remarked that committing crime on the internet makes it seem that it "is somewhat easier than selling drugs on the street.

"It gives the impression of invulnerability and the impression that the crime is less serious but it's not. These two sold drugs to third parties for profit," he said.

The pair sold drugs to customers all over the world including Japan, Argentina, Czech Republic and the USA.

There's little doubt that Mannion and O'Connor won't be the last of Ireland's new breed of digital drug dealer.

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