‘Perth’s Silk Road Telegram’ shows how drugs are being sold online under in plain sight of WA Police
Tech-savvy drug dealers across Perth have been openly peddling illicit substances through an elaborate network of encrypted messaging app channels, right under the noses of WA Police.
The Sunday Times can reveal a number of linked channels on the messaging app Telegram are being used to connect dealers with tens of thousands of eager buyers.
The largest of the channels boasts more than 35,000 members
After a transaction has taken place, buyers and dealers are then expected to “vouch” each other in a dedicated channel if the illicit transaction was smoothly completed.
The channels are managed by a group named “The Circuit” and offer a huge array of illegal drugs including MDMA, cocaine and even baked goods laced with cannabis.
Potent and potentially deadly prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and Tramadol are also readily available.
Methamphetamine, however, is banned.
Dealers have compared it to the anonymous US-based black market website Silk Road, which the FBI believed facilitated the sale of $1 billion worth of illegal goods in the early 2010s.
“You can basically get any drug you could ever want,” a source inside The Circuit’s network said.
“You pretty much have a menu, different types, sizes, quality . . . it is Perth’s own Silk Road.”
“Before you would have to message your dealer. If they’ve got stock, you’d go over and pick up. If not, you’re not getting anything.
“(But with The Circuit) you’ve got three to five hundred dealers right across Perth at the tip of your fingers at any hour.”
If you are using online marketplaces it is highly likely you are being monitored
Once a deal has taken place, the buyer and dealer post a vouch for each other in a dedicated channel controlled by The Circuit.
Searching users’ names inside the channel seemingly lists the number of vouches they’ve collected to verify their status as a buyer and prove they’re not an undercover cop or someone who may scam a deal.
“You need 20 or 30 vouchers to even talk to me,” the source said.
“I know who I’m dealing with isn’t going to be a cop or they’re not going to roll (rob) me when we meet up.
“If you’ve got that many vouchers, there’s no way you’re going to be a cop, so there’s no anxiety around that.”
Despite a sense of impunity from law enforcement among The Circuit’s network, superintendent of WA Police’s serious and organised crime division John Hutchison said his officers are actively targeting online drug markets.
He warned dealers and buyers that they could be dealing with undercover officers when setting up exchanges through The Circuit’s Telegram pages.
“WA Police Force actively targets the entire illicit drug environment, which includes the online illicit marketplaces and the dark web,” Det-Supt Hutchison told The Sunday Times.
“Many people use online illicit marketplaces under the false belief they can remain anonymous throughout the entire process, however this is not the case. Police monitor these sites to gather evidence of unlawful activities and where appropriate take action.
“If you are using online marketplaces it is highly likely you are being monitored by police or dealing with a covert police officer, and there are serious ramifications for those who buy and sell drugs in these environments.”
The Sunday Times has seen drug sellers offering their illicit goods in almost every suburb of Perth, across the city’s affluent Western Suburbs, to Baldivis in the south, and even the CBD.
They also offer drop-off services to the homes of their customers, if the buyers are willing to pay extra money.
To stand out amongst the never-ending offerings of narcotics, dealers regularly post elaborate descriptions of their drugs in their adverts.
“Beautifully grown and cured but sticky buds, each with their own amazing terpene and packed with icy trichomes,” one Dianella cannabis seller wrote in their advertisement on Saturday. “Ticks all the boxes.”
Dealers often include graphics on photos of their narcotics to indicate the price of their drugs, determined by size and quality.
A gram of cannabis can be bought for as little as $30 while users can expect to pay as much as $950 for 3.5 grams of MDMA.
The shocking discovery comes after the FBI and Australian Federal Police created encrypted messenger app AN0M to covertly monitor criminal syndicates around the globe.
Communications captured by police from AN0M has led to hundreds of arrests across the country, and dozens in WA, bringing down bikies and other major underworld figures.