Australia is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy the drug ice, making it a prime target market for drug traffickers, according to a report released by the Australian Crime Commission.
The high prices haven’t harmed the ice black market in the Illawarra, with suppliers openly advertising their wares online.
A Craigslist user claiming to be in Warrawong advertised a new shipment of crystal meth that was ‘‘high quality’’ and could be injected or smoked ‘‘equally as good’’.
The salesman even included a picture which depicted his product as clear, glassy ‘‘shards’’ – qualities meth users generally seek out when buying the drug.
One gram was priced at $480 with customers able to select pick-up or delivery for an additional flat rate of $20.
According to the Crime Commission’s Australian Methylamphetamine Market report, the average street price for a gram of meth in China is $80, while a gram in Australia is usually priced around $500, making the huge profit margins an incentive for organised criminals to break into the market.
International organised crime groups have imported a record amount of methylamphetamine to Australia since 2013, according to the report.
Australian Crime Commission chief executive Chris Dawson said crime gangs were ‘‘thriving’’ on profits generated by methylamphetamine.
‘‘The price paid for methylamphetamine in Australia is among the highest in the world,’’ he said.
‘‘This has driven interest in the market by transnational organised crime groups with access to offshore industrial-scale manufacturing.’’
The methylamphetamine trade has become a priority for law enforcement agencies with more than 60 per cent of Australia’s high-risk criminal targets involved in the meth market.
The report states that, while no one organised crime group or gang has dominance in the meth trade, they are entrenched in all levels of the market including importing meth, importing ingredients, manufacturing, distributing and selling the drug.
According to the report, rather than importing the drug in its completed state, syndicates were able to import precursor ingredients.
Many of the precursor and pre-precursor chemicals can be imported legally due to their varied legitimate uses.
Illegal or controlled substances are mislabelled, concealed and usually imported in much higher amounts than their normal use would demand.
The report gave the example of shipments of a brand name cold and flu medication from China, which had the highest dose of pseudoephedrine of any freely available medication at the time, being rerouted through various countries before arriving in Australia to be cooked into illegal drugs.
Another method was to establish chemical-related business fronts to import precursor ingredients without suspicion or to cultivate insiders in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries or transport networks.