During the interview to “Lenta.ru,” a former officer of Federal Drug Control Service of Russia explained how the war on drugs was lost and why all controlled substances are sold and bought on the darknet.
“No one buys on the streets”
In the Drug Control Service we did not follow trends. Maybe it happened because we got used to monitoring not the market but main supply channels. Now I understand that it was a fatal error which resulted in switching drug trafficking to the Internet.
The first “bell” rang in 2014 – we got information from our agents. They claimed that a lot of imported stuff had appeared on the market. Street dealers had immense losses – people just stopped buying from them. At that time we paid attention to deep web. We knew about darknet markets before, but the prices there were very high and a lot of “dances with a tambourine” had to be performed. A person had to register to buy bitcoins – we thought only limited number of technically advanced people could deal with it. But two years later practically all drugs traded in big cities moved to the dark side of the Internet.
“There is no possibility to block the market”
Why darknet markets managed to gain popularity so fast? The thing is – most of DNMs take care of customers. Other features are range and specialization. Some vendors offer all popular substances, others concentrate on unique stuff at high prices. Anyway the choice of goods is amazing – absolutely anything can be bought and a purchase will be in your pocket in an hour. Few people imagine the scale of trade on darknet, we never tried to estimate it because nothing was known about customers.
But I can say one thing for sure: Tor has become a sought-after way of buying drugs and there is no possibility to block this market. Everything depends on anonymity. A dead dropper working on streets does not personally know a vendor, who previously transacted money and left prepacked drugs in an agreed place. And a vendor, in his turn, is not personally familiar with a supplier.
“Wholesalers are there too”
This is the main problem – no one is capable of cutting supply channels. Routes have not changed – bulk amounts are still imported to Russia from Europe, Thailand, China or Middle Asia. But nowadays they are ordered using Tor and foreign marketplaces.
Dealers send dope by mail and so called “droppers” (usually teenagers) receive parcels. As you can guess droppers get paid a lot for their services and ordinarily work for the same shops.
Some outstanding cases were reported as well. For example, at the end of 2014 a rare sativa strain emerged on the Moscow market. We found out that a Russian living in Thailand distributed it on the dark web. He sold marijuana only in bulk and at low prices. As a result other vendors bought his marijuana and traded it on the same marketplace but in smaller amounts.
According to feedback, the vendor skillfully masked cannabis with tea and souvenirs, very often he stuffed wooden elephant figurines with it. Eventually several parcels got stuck in the Bangkok airport and the vendor was arrested by local police. The investigation identified that the business was run by a group of several Russians, who earned about $4 million for half a year.
“A smart grandpa was caught”
Some dealers use DNMs as a platform for sales and produce drugs right at home. Once we arrested a retiree who grew high-quality marijuana in his country house. He was smart enough to download growing guides in English and to order equipment. His illegal activity was revealed by accident – his neighbors complained about electricity over usage to a local energy company, furthermore one of them added that the grandpa “grows grass”. In fact, all villagers knew about it, but nobody had addressed authorities. When the information reached us we carried out a police operation and confiscated 6 kilograms of marijuana.
“Teenagers consider it to be normal”
However it seems to me, that the major problem lies not in Tor browser or other technologies but in human mentality. First of all: Russians do not trust legal enforcement agencies. Even if people know who uses and sells drugs, they seldom go to police. Turning in “our own guys” is a shame. That is why most complaints are made on foreigners.
The youth do not see anything bad in using drugs. They consider it to be normal. I do not know exactly what this is connected with. Maybe it is a result of the Western culture influence, maybe the Russian one is to be blamed. Just listen to our rappers, what they call for.
We often arrested children who came from wealthy homes, who not only used drugs but earned from distributing them. Those kids were not able to clearly explain their motives. Now it is believed to be fashionable, teenagers express themselves this way, honor crimes and prison “concepts”.
But young people are not the main clientele of DNMs. Many customers are wealthy people, having prestigious job, well-established in a society. They do not stand out, you cannot tell that they are addicts.
They say that fighting against drugs is useless. I spent many years in this struggle and believe that the war is already lost unless new appropriate countermeasures are taken.