The dark web has been labeled as the prime medium and the reason for the boom of drug trafficking in New Zealand and the world at large.
With many efforts by Europol to fight against the anonymity of the dark web, users have increased exponentially after the FBI shut down the infamous Silk Road Market in 2013.
Following the emergence of the darknet marketplaces, the influx of illicit drugs across Europe has had an unprecedented rise, with New Zealand being the current talking point.
According to a report, drug traffickers prefer to export illicit drugs to New Zealand due to the fact that the country has quite higher prices for drugs, and buyers are always willing to meet the price demand for the substances.
Economists have explained that the market price of a substance motivates suppliers to supply more, and this has been an underlying factor that has led to the drug trafficking boom in New Zealand.
A recent report attested to this fact, revealing how the New Zealand customs has recorded a significant increase in drug seizures over the years. The high number of drug seizures paints a clear picture of the state of the New Zealand drug market.
The Inside Story
A police intelligence report has revealed the popularity of the dark web to be a core reason for the country’s drug trafficking boom. The report not only revealed New Zealand’s high drug influx, but also showed a trend of high drug seizure by customs.
Drugs including MDMA, cannabis, and prescription medications are the most trafficked and seized substances courtesy of the dark web. According to an investigation, the illicit drugs predominantly originate from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Canada.
It has also been reported that many drugs are trafficked from underground labs in China to New Zealand. In many occasions, New Zealand becomes a transit point for drugs to be trafficked to Australia.
In 2017, research revealed that Australia was the leading country of darknet market drug trade, accounting for 25% percent of all transactions and facilitating 27% of the darknet market-related methamphetamine trade.
The dark web has long since become a platform where illicit drug vendors operate from. Countries such as the United States have felt the effects of drug overdoses from the easily-ordered drugs received through loopholes in postal services.
Drug Trafficking Boom Sparkes Large Drug Seizures in New Zealand
The increase in illicit drug trafficking in New Zealand has resulted in an equal rise of illicit drug seizure by customs.
The country’s customs agency, the New Zealand Customs Service, has recorded multiple figures of the number of intercepted drugs with a higher increase from previous years.
The information available reveals that drugs such as LSD, ecstasy, MDMA, cannabis, and opioids have had a higher annual interception in recent years.
According to Drug Foundation’s Executive Director, Ross Bell, customs is not just interested in making drug busts, but carefully searching in every single package.
“It means for Customs, they’re not looking for the big bust. They’re having to look through hundreds of thousands of envelopes.”
Following the high influx of dark web-originated drugs into the country, the government has invested in its security, providing training to customs and drug dogs to strongly defend the country against the cross-border trafficking of illicit drugs.
According to recent information, the interception of MDMA has doubled in recent years; 8.7 kilograms of MDMA was intercepted in 2016, nearly doubling to 13 kilograms in 2017.
According to the Associate Professor Chris Wilkins from SHORE & Whariki Research Centre, most of the trafficked MDMA is typically sent to Hastings; however, traffickers are able to distribute them to other parts of the country, with the bulk being sent to Queenstown and Auckland.
In 2016, it was identified that 2,085 tablets were headed to Queenstown while 700 pills found their way into Auckland. These figures nearly doubled in subsequent years. Just as marijuana is popular in the United States, MDMA has obtained the same fame among the Kiwis.
Professor Wilkins spoke about Queenstown topping the list of cities with a high influx of MDMA.
“I think it just represents that Queenstown is this international party location destination for tourism from all over the world.”
The boom in drug trafficking in the country can be traced some years back, and records show this is not a new trend.
According to Statistics New Zealand and the New Zealand Police, the record of illicit drug trafficking in 2012 was far more than the recorded figures in the previous years.
The 2012 figures also fall below the number of trafficking recorded in the subsequent years. From this, it can be projected that the drug influx could double in the coming years if nothing is done to control it.
In a survey conducted by Massey University in 2014, Recent Trends in Illegal Drug Use in New Zealand, 2006-2014, 73% of the respondents admitted to purchasing illicit drugs from social media sites and various darknet marketplaces.
The findings of the study also revealed that in 2011, 56% of the Methamphetamine users were willing to purchase it in an hour or less; this increased to 76% in 2014, adding up to the reports that the drug dealings increase annually.
Efforts to Control the Drug Trafficking
With regards to the numerous cases of drug trafficking in New Zealand, conscious efforts have been made by the government to control the situation.
Last year, the New Zealand Defence Force contributed to the interception of drugs worth $400 million within two weeks. Internationally, Europol led a raid that resulted in the shutdown of the Hansa Market and AlphaBay.
In collaboration with agencies that seek to fight against the same problem, New Zealand has put proactive measures in place to ensure that traffickers behind the high drug influx are arrested and subject to the demand of the law.