The potential role of the Internet in facilitating drugs trade first gained mass attention with the rise and fall of Silk Road; the first major online market place for illegal goods on the hidden web. After Silk Road was taken down by the FBI in October , it was only a matter of weeks before copycats filled the void. Today, there are around 50 so-called cryptomarkets and vendor shops where anonymous sellers and buyers find each other to trade illegal drugs, new psychoactive substances, prescription drugs and other goods and services. But it is not just the obscure parts of the Internet where drugs are on offer.
There are numerous web shops, easily found by search engines, which offer new psychoactive substances, often labelled as 'research chemicals'. The Netherlands occupies a crucial position in European illicit drug markets. Data from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction suggested it is the main producer of MDMA, ecstasy and herbal cannabis and a key distribution hub for cannabis resin and cocaine. Whether the pivotal role of the Netherlands also extends online, has yet been unclear.
This report analyses the size and scope of Internet-facilitated drugs trade both on the so-called clear and hidden web, paying special attention to the Netherlands, and delineates potential avenues for law enforcement for detection and intervention. Of all products and services on offer, this study found that 57 per cent of listings across the eight analysed cryptomarkets offered drugs. Cannabis, stimulants and ecstasy were responsible for 70 per cent of all revenues on the analysed cryptomarkets. No information was identified on revenues on the clear net.
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Based on these findings it is likely that many cryptomarket customers are drug dealers sourcing stock intended for offline distribution. Most vendors appeared to be operating from the United States , followed by the United Kingdom , and Germany Revenues to vendors reporting to operate from the Netherlands on cryptomarkets accounted for 8 per cent of total drug revenues.
On a per capita basis, revenues to vendors operating from the Netherlands were 2. Traditional investigation techniques applied in the drug chain, postal detection and interception, online detection and online disruption are potential law enforcement strategies in the detection and intervention of Internet-facilitated drugs trade.
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