Aussie cocaine prices double due to COVID-19

 

Coronavirus has forced criminals to "bid for investors" to form one-off super cells for drug and gun trafficking, with global transport restrictions making the movement of illicit goods harder and now forcing the price of cocaine to more than double.

That's the conclusion of the latest national law enforcement intelligence snapshot that points to a dramatic shift in the way crime groups are operating with rivalries making way to "common enterprise" networks.

Twelve months ago a gram of cocaine was worth $350 but it is now found to be worth up to $750 for the highest grade, according to an internal report compiled by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Federal Police and State police counterparts. Similar street level price value doublings are also being seen for MDMA (ecstasy), crystal methamphetamine (ice) and ketamine.

 

Australian authorities intercept a drug-filled vessel off the NSW coast near Newcastle allegedly carrying 1.89 tonnes of cocaine worth $850.5 million. Picture: ABF
Australian authorities intercept a drug-filled vessel off the NSW coast near Newcastle allegedly carrying 1.89 tonnes of cocaine worth $850.5 million. Picture: ABF

 

Officers said demand for illicit drugs in Australia and the price Aussies were prepared to pay remained high but ramped up border security, travel restrictions due to COVID-19 and recent big busts had led to dwindling supply and doubling of prices.

Police specifically now note once exclusive ethnic-based crime groups working together, notably Chinese and Lebanese criminals based both in their countries and here.

The "evolution" was partly boosted by encrypted devices and apps through which criminals seek like-minded partners to help traffic goods.

"In terms of the way importations work, it's no longer clear cut and yes you do have organised crime syndicates who do work specifically together, close knit to import drugs, but a lot of the times with encrypted devices now there can be communications that go over these devices which may send a message out to a number of organised crime groups, bidding for investors in terms of who would like to be involved in importation," a senior intelligence law enforcer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

 

The Australian Federal Police forensic unit in Canberra analysing a recent cocaine seizure. Picture Gary Ramage
The Australian Federal Police forensic unit in Canberra analysing a recent cocaine seizure. Picture Gary Ramage

 

Drug sample containers being analysed by the AFP Forensic team in Canberra. Picture Gary Ramage
Drug sample containers being analysed by the AFP Forensic team in Canberra. Picture Gary Ramage

 

"Encrypted devices have brought groups closer together because they can communicate over how they do their business."

He said the appetite and use for cocaine remained extremely despite recent significant seizures, suggesting the existence of stockpiles.

Authorities fear as drug availability does dry up cocaine in particular is likely to be cut with agents to boost their volume, namely the agent of choice Levamisole usually used to treat parasitic worms in animals.

While crime groups have been hampered by the COVID-19-related slowing of global air and shipping trade, there had been a noted increase in both gun parts and drugs being detected and seized in mail centres across the country.

 

 

Originally published as Aussie cocaine prices double due to COVID-19


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