Roundup: Australia on alert as it enters “ice age”

SIDNEY (CIHAN)- A landmark report released Tuesday from the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has revealed the extent of Australia’s exposure to the methamphetamine, or the party drug ice, with calls for a new approach to a silent war that has only fired its first shots.
Only a week earlier, journalists in Sydney were gathered to witness one of the biggest drug hauls in state history, with police form the State Crime Command’s Organized Crime Squad displaying more than 140 kg of bagged drugs including cocaine and ice as part of just one ongoing investigation into major drug supply in Australia.
The Commander of the State Crime Command, Assistant Commissioner Mark Jenkins, told Xinhua the investigation had been a major success.
“The ephedrine seized had the potential to produce about 100 kilograms of methylamphetamine and detectives have arrested a number of key players in what we believe is one of the state’s biggest drug supply rings.”
Assistant Commissioner Jenkins called it “a complex, high-level investigation undertaken by shrewd, committed detectives, and it has delivered some outstanding results.”
But, according to the ACC, it is just a drop in the ocean.
rime gangs and drug cartels around the world have been targeting Australia, despite the often vast distances from source countries, because of the high price Australia’s growing number of addicts are willing to play for class-A drugs.
The ACC on Tuesday is calling for a rethink in the nation’s approach to what many believe are the first stages of a new era of addiction. What has been a harm-minimization approach needs to be come something far more multi-faceted to head the problem off.
The commission’s executive director of strategy and specialist capabilities, Judy Lind has called for the problem to be liberated from the exclusive domain of cops and robbers.
“It is not just a law enforcement issue.” She said, despite the report revealing that last year there was a drug-related arrest on average in Australia every six minutes – the highest rate ever recorded.
Education must play a larger role, Lind said.
To be released at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, the report shows that there was also a drug seizure every seven minutes last year.
Police figures show that some 86,918 seizures were made in 2012- 13, up by more 66 percent from the number of seizures made in 2003- 04. The size and scope, the breadth and daring of many of these arrests highlight the intricacies of well-planned and targeted business models that have clearly identified Australia and its wealthy demographic, as a high-risk and high-return market.
The increase in arrests recorded by the ACC indicates that drug demand and usage has been on the rise nationwide for several years.
“It’s a pretty concerning picture in terms of illicit drugs behavior in Australia,” Lind said.
“In the last four or five years, international drug cartels cottoned on to that, they are prepared to try and ship products from South America and other countries to try and get it into the Australian market.”
“Australians, for whatever reason, are prepared to pay a high price for illicit drugs, probably because they can. Australia is a wealthy country,” she added.
While cocaine use has increased, it only represents a small fraction of the whole.
annabis remains the dominant illicit drug of choice in Australia, with the number of arrests and seizures almost three times the next most frequent drug, which is amphetamine-type stimulants such as ice.
The record number of cocaine seizures last financial year – Colombia identified as the leading source country – belies the harrowing problems associated with designer drugs.
More than 100,000 people were arrested for drug offenses in Australia in 2012-13, but it is the size of seizures that has police troubled.
In February, police seized the largest amount of PMMA oil (used to produce an ecstasy-like tablet) ever located in Australia, following an operation in Sydney’s southern suburbs.
A search warrant for a residence in Sydney’s Sans Souci led to the discovery of a clandestine laboratory inside the property, along with 1.5 kg of methylamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and cash.
Behind a newly constructed wall inside the property’s garage, police discovered two additional, hidden clandestine laboratories where at least 120 liters of PMMA oil was hidden, as well as other chemicals and equipment used to manufacture illegal drugs. The oil had the potential to create 480,000 pills.
The Commander of Operation Polaris, Detective Superintendent Nick Bingham, described PMMA as a dangerous chemical often used to produce a tablet which is sold under the guise of ecstasy.
The ACC believes that competition is growing among transnational supply chains targeting Australia.
A massive 20 tonnes of illegal drugs worth 2.7 billion Australia dollars were seized in Australia during the past year.
According to the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center ( NDARC), the number of illicit drug retailers selling to Australia on underground websites such as the now defunct Silk Road increased significantly last year, with the number of Australian retailers selling online also increasing during the same period.
In fact, the total numbers of retailers on the Silk Road increased by 42 percent in the six months to the site’s closure in October 2013.
Researchers found the infamous Silk Road drug retailer was quickly replaced by alternate sites in the wake of its forced shutdown.
The number of Australian retailers operating on the Silk Road more than doubled from 53 to 129 over the six months from February 2013.
International retailers selling to Australia on the Silk Road increased by 27 percent over the same period from 353 in February 2013 to 450 in September 2013.
Lead author of the report, NDARC Senior Research Officer Joe Van Buskirk, said the increase in the number of Australian retailers on the underground, or “dark web” sites, indicated a ” rapidly changing and responsive market”.
“The sites have increasingly aanced security features,” said Van Buskirk. “It appears that faith in the security of dark web marketplaces has not diminished since the closure of the Silk Road. ”
ACC acting head Paul Jevtovic said the national faced a new kind of drug problem, where violence and drug use came hand in hand.
“One in five ice users arrested by police committed a violent crime,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner Ashton told local media that the southern state of Victoria had “never before experienced” an illegal drug scourge as cruel as the ice one it was now facing.
Ashton said the “highly addictive nature” and the “violent behavior it can often induce” sets ice apart in terms of social damage.
“Ice does not discriminate. It is addicting the children of the rich and the poor alike.” (CihanXinhua)