Forensic drug intelligence and the rise of cryptomarkets. Part I: Studying the Australian virtual market

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Journal Article
Forensic Science International, 2017, 279 pp. 288 - 301
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© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Analysing and understanding cryptomarkets is essential to become proactive in the fight against the illicit drug trade. Such a research seeks to combine a diversity of indicators related to the virtual (darknet markets) and physical (the traditional “offline” market) aspects of the illicit drug trade to provide information on the distribution and consumption as well as to assess similarities/differences between the virtual and physical markets. This study analysed data that had previously been collected on cryptomarkets from December 2013 to March 2015. In this article, the data was extracted from two marketplaces, Evolution and Silk Road 2, and analysed to evaluate the illicit drug trade of the Australian virtual market (e.g. information about the supply and demand, trafficking flows, prices of illicit drugs and market share) and highlight its specificities. The results revealed the domestic nature of the virtual Australian illicit drug trade (i.e. Australian sellers essentially ship their products to local customers). This may explain the coherence between supply and demand. Particularly, the virtual Australian illicit drug trade is dominated by amphetamine-type substances (ATS), mainly methamphetamine and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), and cannabis. Australia, as a shipping country, accounts for half of the methamphetamine offered and purchased on Silk Road 2. Moreover, it was observed that the online price fixed by Australian sellers for the considered illicit drugs is higher than for any other shipping countries, which is in line with previous studies. Understanding the virtual and physical drug market necessitates the integration and fusion of different perspectives to capture the dynamic nature of drug trafficking, monitor its evolution and finally improve our understanding of the phenomenon so policy makers can make informed decisions.
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