What’s the highest paying job in Sydney?
If you’re thinking along the lines of a banker, lawyer or doctor, you’d be off the mark. According to a recent report by the NSW Crime Commission, drug importers are raking in huge profits – despite a steep decline in wholesale prices.
The Commission says that the price of a kilogram of cocaine has fallen from $280,000 three years ago to between $180,000 to $200,000 today. The price of ‘ice’ has more than halved during the same period, from $220,000 to $95,000.
The fall has been attributed to increases in supply, indicating that drug smugglers are getting better at importing larger quantities of drugs – which equals larger profits.
Meanwhile, the street prices for these drugs have remained unchanged, meaning that organised crime groups are benefiting from greater profits.
Government efforts to stop drug importation have proven to be futile. Despite government agencies seizing 7.3 tonnes of illegal drugs and chemicals in 2014/15, (with one seizure comprising 2.8 tonnes of ice and MDMA worth $1.5 billion), the most recent Report notes that:
‘it was one of Australia’s largest ever drug seizures but, despite this seizure, the price of both ice and MDMA has continued to drop, suggesting a continuing plentiful supply.’
The Report also states that:
‘the illicit drug trade in Australia from drug importation through to street level distribution continues to be the chief source of income for organised crime in Australia.’
Who Imports Drugs and How?
The Report examines the characteristics of those who import drugs – finding that they originate from many different countries, including Mexico, Vietnam, Canada and the United States. It found that the vast majority of drugs, excluding locally grown cannabis, originated from outside Australia – but once the drugs arrived in Australia, they were generally handled by organised crime groups, such as motorcycle groups and ethnic gangs, including those of Vietnamese, Armenian, Russian and Lebanese origin.
The Report suggests that drug smuggling operations are becoming more sophisticated – that importers are getting better at concealing drugs that are shipped or flown over.
The Report also suggests that Sydney’s booming property market is providing a ‘demand for funds’ into Australia, facilitating money laundering operations by providing a reasonable excuse for smugglers to transfer large sums of money into the country.
Penalties for Drug Importation
Drug importation is a Federal offence under the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995. The maximum penalty depends on the amount of drugs in question, as well as the type of drug imported:
- Importing less than a marketable quantity (i.e. less than100 grams ecstasy, 250 grams amphetamines, heroin and cocaine, or 25kg cannabis) carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or $220,000;
- Importing more than a marketable quantity but less than a commercial quantity attracts a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment and/or $550,000 fine;
- Importing a commercial quantity (i.e. 500g+ ecstasy, 750g+ amphetamines, 1.5kg+ heroin, 2 kilograms+ cocaine, 125 kilograms+ cannabis) comes with a maximum of life imprisonment and/or fine of $825,000;
- Importing any quantity of drugs (i.e. where the prosecution is unable to prove a particular quantity, or where a person imports a smaller quantity of drugs) has a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and/or $220,000 fine.
What Can Be Done?
The Report confirms that costly government surveillance operations and drug seizures do little to stop the flow of drugs into Australia. Those who dare to import drugs despite the heavy penalties do not stay in Australia for long – generally leaving once the job is complete.
The Report also found that:
‘There is further evidence that the seizures did not deter large syndicates, who regarded the loss of the drugs as merely a business overhead, and there was strong intelligence to suggest that syndicates will simply embark upon new variations of methods for importation to continue their business in order to recoup losses following the seizures.’
Many argue that the best solution to the question of drugs is the decriminalisation and regulation of their use, and ensuring that users are given access to treatment rather than arrested and sent through the criminal justice system.
But sadly, our government seems intent on wasting millions of taxpayer dollars in its futile war against drugs, and those who choose to use them.