Detectives follow the Silk Road

A LUCRATIVE website that sells illegal drugs is proving a challenge for Esperance detectives to rein in its activities, but as they turn their attention to the online marketplace, detectives are finding local deliveries have “practically stopped.”

The Silk Road website, which is achieving an estimated $22 million a year in sales, functions similarly to a black market version of eBay, where drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine sell for far less than their street value in Australia.

Users can access the service using TOR software, designed to mask the user’s location and details, before payment is made via the encrypted digital currency Bitcoin.

Esperance Detective Sergeant Stephen Harris said under Operation Cinder detectives had liaised with Australia Post staff who checked their daily parcel deliveries for the obvious signs of a Silk Road posting.

“Australia Post sees around 100 parcels come through its doors each day in Esperance,” Det Sgt Harris said.

“For the first few weeks, they were finding up to eight packages a week and are now able to spot the signs of a Silk Road parcel straight away.”

Since September 5, Esperance detectives and Australia Post have intercepted just over 30 packages, containing approximately 0.5kg of cannabis, around 200g of synthetic cannabis, around 5g of methylamphetamine, 1g of cocaine, around 400 tabs of LSD and 30 ecstasy tablets as well as seizing prescription medication such as oxycontin.

Det Sgt Harris said it was clear a few people were still purchasing synthetic cannabis or ‘synthetic cannabinominetics,’ thinking the drug is legal, as purported by the website.

“This is not the case, the website has providing misleading information on the topic,” he said.

“Synthetic cannabis is a prohibited substance.”

Det Sgt Harris said that because drugs are delivered by post, anyone who uses Silk Road runs the risk of their parcel being intercepted.

Sellers use techniques to make packaging less detectable and further closer inspection unlikely by vacuum sealing drugs or using ‘professional’ looking envelopes with typed addresses, with most drugs arriving in Express Post bags or birthday cards

.

“The message is clear: If you are going to buy drugs through online marketplaces such as Silk Road, you will be caught,” Det Sgt Harris said.

Esperance detectives and police will continue to identify, investigate and prosecute individuals and groups importing illicit 

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