Police are cracking down on online illegal drug trading. File photo.
Law enforcement agencies around the world are seeing an increase in the importation of illicit drugs purchased online – including through the Dark Net – and New Zealand is not immune to that global trend.
In the last two weeks, police have run a prevention-focused operation – Operation Garden - targeting the importation of illicit drugs purchased on the Dark Net.
As a result of this, 84 addresses across New Zealand have been visited.
Assistant commissioner investigations Richard Chambers says the addresses visited as part of the operation were identified, through information from Dutch law enforcement, as being linked to the purchase of illicit drugs via the Dark Net.
“We work closely with NZ Customs and our partners in international law enforcement, and we have been successful at identifying individuals who have attempted to avoid detection by using the Dark Net to conduct their criminal activities.
“Enforcement agencies across the world are increasingly pooling their resources and capabilities to disrupt criminal activities conducted online, and this type of international cooperation and collaboration further diminishes the illusion of anonymity offered by the Dark Net.”
NZ Police’s National Organised Crime Group worked with their Dutch counterparts over several months to identify those targeted as part of this operation.
The majority of those identified have been importing drugs such as MDMA and LSD for their personal use, rather than for the purpose of on-selling for profit.
For that reason, the focus of this operation is education and harm-reduction, rather than prosecution, says Richard.
“We want to help people avoid getting trapped in a downward-spiral of drug addiction - and we know that opportunities to reduce the impact of illicit drugs on our communities require multi-agency initiatives focused not only on enforcement, but on prevention, treatment, and harm reduction.
“That is not to say that prosecutions will not be sought if further evidence is uncovered as part of our visits. However our primary focus is to offer advice and support to individuals and their families, and to work with our community partners to connect people to rehabilitation services where needed.”
Despite the education and harm-reduction focus of this operation, police are warning anyone who may be considering importing illicit drugs using the Dark Net that they should not be complacent about the risks of getting caught.
A number of formal police warnings were issued to people spoken to as part of the operation.
“Criminal activity conducted online is an increasing focus for NZ Police. In September, the Commissioner announced an additional 77 officers to boost NZ Police’s capability around high tech/cyber-crime.
“This includes a major focus on policing the Dark Net and combatting the trade of illicit commodities,” says Richard.
“Our message to people using the Dark Net is simple: the Dark Net is not anonymous.
"And if you’re using the Dark Net to conduct criminal activity, you should think again.”