The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol published a report on the online Drug market in the European Union. It shows that there is still much to be done on the subject.

In this joint-report, the two organisations came to the conclusion that the darknet markets are “subject to rapid change as marketplaces appear and disappear”, which explains in part why it is so difficult for police agencies and states to stop them. Moreover, they keep growing, and European Union suppliers play a major role in it: according to the findings, they were responsible for 46% of drug sales between 2011 and 2015, and for 28% of drug sales on AlphaBay between 2015 and 2017, which was the largest darknet marketplace. The most important countries regarding EU-based darknet drug supply during these periods were Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Because of the nature of these markets (online, changing, difficulty to retrace the perpetrator), there are “significant knowledge gaps […] with respect to the role of traditional organised crime groups (OCGs) in darknet markets. In particular, the extent to which OCGs are involved in the production, trafficking and distribution of drugs supplied on online markets is unclear”. This further complicates the work of national and European police agencies.

In the report, their main conclusion was the need for more police cooperation in the EU, more cooperation between agencies (national and EU-based), and most of all, more means to fight online crime, since it works very differently than crimes in the “physical world”. Moreover, they try to reinstate the importance of prioritising investigations, “since a small number of vendors appear to be responsible for a disproportionately large volume of overall sales”. Finally, the importance of research and monitoring has also been underlined, since it allows to better understand the problem, develop strategies, and help with adjacent problems, such as: “there is evidence that drugs bought on the darknet are likely to be intended for redistribution or supply on local markets”, meaning that research in that area could also bring local markets down.

It is a very complete report, but it is all that it is: there is no insurance that member states and the European Union in general will actually follow the advice. But with the growing importance of the darknet as well as of the online untraceable currency bitcoin, it is becoming one of the most important ground to be covered by the police. It includes all sorts of crimes, ranging from arms trafficking to child paedophilia to human trafficking. Member states must continue cooperating, so that agencies such as Europol can continue delivering positive results.

 

Carolina Duarte de Jesus

For further information:

Drugs and the darknet. Perspectives for enforcement, research and policy, EMCDDA and Europol, 2017, 90 pages

GOODBODY Will, “Do you know what a Bitcoin is? Will Goodbody explains”, RTE, 2017, [consulted online on 30/11/2017]. http://www.rte.ie