From News.com.au / The AustralianAustralia is ecstasy capital
From: By Simon Kearney
March 27, 2006
AUSTRALIANS are the biggest users of ecstasy in the world by a wide margin and the drug is becoming more popular by the day, prompting European syndicates to plan larger smuggling operations.
A series of police intelligence reports obtained by The Australian cite intelligence and UN figures on drug use, showing that ecstasy is becoming mainstream and that supplies of the drug are not being hindered by action to crack down on syndicates importing and manufacturing the dangerous party drug.
The reports indicate the market for the drug is highly lucrative for organised crime with Australians paying more for ecstasy than in traditional markets such as Europe.
They all point to the UN World Drug Report that has named Australians as first in the world for ecstasy use and second for amphetamine use.
Almost twice as many Australians use ecstasy (3.4 per cent) as the next-highest nationality, the British (2.0 per cent).
In an underlined section in a report on synthetic drugs, NSW police admit that the combined efforts of Australian law enforcement agencies have been unable to put a dent in the availability of ecstasy.
"Australia and Oceania may not yet have seen the peak in MDMA (ecstasy) consumption and with the growing supply from the Asian region there appears no problem with availability," the report says.
The NSW Crime Commission says there seem to be no barriers to getting ecstasy in Australia: "European organised crime groups (particularly from Britain, The Netherlands, Belgium and Israel) are targeting Australia for large-scale importations of ecstasy tablets, millions of pills at a time, due to the high profitability of the Australian market."
An AFP report on the syndicates describes them as operating "in a manner similar to that employed by multinational companies". One syndicate did cost-benefit analyses on ecstasy that took into account how foreign exchange rates would affect the smuggling operation.
The NSW Crime Commission and the AFP say the syndicates are increasingly competitive with low-quality locally operations stealing their market share. The reports say they are investing in expensive pill presses so their products cannot be forged, and sending professional chemists to supervise production outposts.
The reports were tabled in federal parliament earlier this month with the committee that oversees the Australian Crime Commission. The committee is examining whether Australia is doing enough to combat the scourge of synthetic illicit drugs.
A report by the Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre criticises police forces for inadequate information sharing, data collection and record keeping.
There have been large seizures of amphetamines and ecstasy in the past year, but the ACC reports that Australia is facing increasing threats from both transnational criminal groups and local manufacturers, which they admit may be producing more ecstasy than police realised.
The ACC has an entire section working on curbing the supply of synthetic illicit drugs, but has found that a third of its other investigations also involve some element of synthetic drug manufacturing or importing.
"Information obtained by the ACC indicates that organised crime elements are involved in ATS (amphetamine-type stimulants) production in NSW and Victoria, while Queensland attracts involvement from smaller and highly diverse criminal groups with serious and organised crime group connections," their report says.
The ACC said local manufacture was relatively easy with many devices needed to produce speed available for purchase on online auction sites.
Police services say that the use of "ice", a stronger and purer amphetamine, is also attracting Asian criminal syndicates, who now prefer the drug to heroin because of its profitability.
NSW police say their intelligence has found most ice enters Australia through New Zealand after being produced in "superlabs" in China, The Philippines, Malaysia and Fiji.
"Some Southeast Asian crime groups, having transferred their interests from heroin to ice, appear to be utilising the routes previously established for heroin supply and funds transfer," the report said.
"They recruit middle-aged couriers to each carry approximately 350 grams of ice, paying them $20,000 to $30,000."
EDIT: For reference here are some related threads from Aus DD on this topic.
Australia leads world in ecstasy use
NEWS: [SMH] 29/07/2005 - 'Illicit drug use hits a new high: 38%'
News - (SMH - Sept 24th) - Australia world's top ecstasy abuser: UN
Drug Usage Statistics 2002