Drug deals flourishing online

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iol scitech nov 28 silk road

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US authorities last year shut down the Silk Road website, known as 'the drugs eBay'.

Durban - Drug dealing has become more sophisticated with users and dealers using clandestine internet sites, which cannot be traced, to perform transactions.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s World Drug Report for 2014 released recently, the online market for illegal drugs is becoming “larger and more brazen”.

The report says buyers and sellers are connecting online and traffic drugs through the postal service. It also refers to the use of the so-called “dark net”, a virtual marketplace, which cannot be accessed through a web search.

It says between 2000 and 2011, there was a 300 percent increase in dagga seizures obtained through the postal service in Europe and the Americas.

The report does not mention South Africa’s online use for drug dealing. However, Durban police said anabolic steroids were being purchased via internet sites.

A police source, who cannot be named because he is not allowed to speak to the media, said there were numerous websites and online chat groups where transactions were set up.

In South Africa, steroids are a schedule 5 drug and can only be purchased with a prescription. He said the postal service was used for the delivery of the drugs.

“It’s a bit of a free market because it is not really being policed,” the source said.

Glen Hagemann, a sports medicine specialist at the Life Healthcare Sharks Medical Centre, confirmed that there were a number of websites where people could illegally purchase steroids.

He said since there was no “crackdown” by the authorities on these sites, they continued to operate.

“These sites come and go and there are quite a few of them. It is not the most common way that schoolboys get steroids, but it does happen. Schoolboys generally get steroids from local people.”

The report notes that there are no reliable statistics on how many people are buying drugs online but it could become a “popular mode of trafficking” in the future.

It said that aside from normal websites, there was a dark net where drugs were purchased using the virtual currency Bitcoin.

“It is difficult for law enforcement authorities to identify website owners and users as their internet protocol (IP) address is not visible on either side of the transaction.”

A dark net site called “Silk Road”, which was dismantled, showed that it had approximately $1.2-billion (R12.8bn) in revenue over a period of two to five years.

Meanwhile, three men who were caught during a police raid at an upmarket Kloof home, are expected to appear in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday. Two Chinese, aged 57 and 58, and a 24-year-old South African were arrested at a house in Everton Road last month and have been charged with dealing in methaqualone, which is commonly known as mandrax, worth about R3bn. - The Mercury

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