Dutch lead the west in online drugs sales: report

Photo: DEA
Photo: DEA

The online sale of illegal drugs is higher per head of the Dutch population than in any other major western country, according to a new report commissioned by the justice ministry.

The 207 page analysis by independent research group Rand looked at 50 encrypted webshops to estimate the size of the online markets – some of which carried over 400 individual adverts.

It found that websites based in the Netherlands specialize in ecstasy-related drugs, while cannabis accounts for just 9% of online sales. ‘This likely reflects the Netherlands’ role in the production of these drug types, making vendor access to these substances relatively easy and profitable given their location in the supply chain,’ the report said.

Almost half the online orders for drugs were for less than $100 but almost one quarter were for over $1,000, leading the researchers to conclude that ‘it is likely that many cryptomarket customers are drug dealers sourcing stock intended for offline distribution.’

Eight markets

In total, dark web sites in the Netherlands account for $13m a year, around 7% of the total in the eight western markets studied, the researchers said. This is 2.4 times higher than those from Britain and 4.5 higher than those from the United States.

Nevertheless, the online market is still relatively small, the researchers say. By contrast Dutch cannabis cafes, where small amounts of marijuana are sold under licence, are estimated to sell drugs worth €1bn a year.

The researchers focused on dark web drugs sales in the US, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

While most sellers appeared to be operating from the United States (890), followed by Britain (338), and Germany (225), countries such as China and India may also be ‘fertile breeding grounds for online drug sales’ because of their role in production, the report said.

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