By Zeb Holmes and Ugur Nedim
A former A-grade Darwin rugby league player has been sent to prison for supplying drugs in the form of hundreds of MDMA tablets sent through the ‘dark web’.
The Supreme Court found that 27 year-old plumbing assistant and under-eights coach, Gavin Brown, used the cryptocurrency bitcoin to buy 500 MDMA tablets for both personal use and for sale in pubs and night clubs.
It determined that 100 or so of the tablets could have been for Mr Brown’s personal use, and the remaining 400 for sale.
“The current Darwin street price for a single MDMA tablet is $40 to $50,” the sentencing judge remarked. “If you had sold the remaining 400 tablets at that price, you stood to receive between $16,000 and $20,000.”
The judge sentenced Brown to 18 months behind bars, with three months to be spent behind bars and the remaining 15 months suspended.
His Honour described the offending as a “selfish” act to fuel his own drug habit and to “get [his] drugs for free.”
“That is, of course, very selfish because you were putting your own interests ahead of the interests of the community”, he added.
The defendant’s financial pressures and the “looming family responsibilities” of his partner’s pregnancy were taken into account as mitigating factors.
Mr Brown testified in court that he purchased the tablets to side-step Darwin’s expensive drug distributors, and that he had not previously purchased drugs on the dark web.
The ‘Dark Web’
The dark web is a peer-to-peer network which uses special software such as the US Navy-developed Tor browser to obscure a person’s internet provider (IP) address, thereby making it extremely difficult to determine the user’s location or identity.
In a normal internet search, a person’s IP address is registered onto the host’s address. With Tor, a user’s request to access a site is randomly bounced between several ‘relay sites’ before arriving at the host site, making its origin virtually undetectable.
Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are preferred on the dark web because they maintains anonymity. They operate on a peer-to-peer networks, with no bank account or central authority to trace them back to.
The marketplace determines the value of cryptocurrency through supply and demand, and trades are made directly with others.
Use in Australia
Australia is said to have one of the highest rates of dark web drug deals per capita in the world, second only to the Netherlands.
According to Associate Professor James Martin from Swinburne University, receiving drugs from overseas sources isn’t as risky as many people think.
“Certainly the Australian Border Force has created a perception that they’re very good at intercepting drugs going in and out of the country,” the professor explains.
“But we know from looking at the feedback on these sites, and also talking to drug dealers, and people who purchase drugs online, that the vast majority of the deals go through with relative ease.”
The Australian Federal Police released a statement in 2018 to the effect that it is aware of illicit trading on the dark web and has been working with its partners to combat all forms of technology-enabled crime.
Deemed Drug Supply in NSW
In NSW, a person who is found in possession of more than the ‘traffickable quantity’ of a prohibited drug can be convicted of deemed drug supply, even if there is no evidence they actually intended to supply drugs to anyone.
are found in possession of more than a certain quantity of drugs, you can be charged with deemed supply, even if you say that you had no intention of supplying or selling the drugs.
The deemed supply provision is contained in section 29 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 and states as follows:
“A person who has in his or her possession an amount of a prohibited drug which is not less than the traffickable quantity of the prohibited drug shall, for the purposes of this Division, be deemed to have the prohibited drug in his or her possession for supply, unless:
- the person proves that he or she had the prohibited drug in his or her possession otherwise than for supply, or
- except where the prohibited drug is prepared opium, cannabis leaf, cannabis oil, cannabis resin, heroin or 6-monoacetylmorphine or any other acetylated derivatives of morphine, the person proves that he or she obtained possession of the prohibited drug on and in accordance with the prescription of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, midwife practitioner, dentist or veterinary practitioner”
The traffickable quantity for all prohibited drugs is listed in Schedule 1 of the Act, which provides that the traffickable quantity of MDMA is just 0.75 grams, which is as little as two or three tablets.
Charged with Drug Supply?
If you are going to court for drug supply, call us anytime on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a free conference with an experienced drug defence lawyer.
We will be able to advise you of your options and the best way forward, and use our vast knowledge in the area to fight for the best possible result.
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