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The sentencing of a 27-year-old man at the Christchurch District Court last Thursday for importing drugs through an overseas website serves as a warning to other online drug buyers that they will be caught and prosecuted, Customs says.
Simon Lim was prosecuted under the Misuse of Drugs Act after Customs linked him to packages containing small quantities of drugs that were intercepted at the International Mail Centre a year ago. The packages had been ordered from the Silk Road website.
In October, Lim pleaded guilty to three counts of importing Class A drugs (cocaine, methamphetamine and LSD), two counts of importing a Class B drug (hashish), one count of importing a Class C drug (Ketamine), one count of possessing a Class C drug (cannabis), and one count of possessing a utensil used to consume controlled drugs.
He was sentenced to 18 months supervision.
Silk Road used the TOR anonymity service to obscure its location, but has gained a following among mainly US and UK customers. NPR called the "Amazon of illegal drugs"; The Economist "a sort of eBay of drugs."
And although its URL is purposefully impossible to remember, Silk Road now has an annual turnover of $US22 million and counting, says Forbes. For extra anonymity all transactions are in the Bitcoin virtual currency.
“This prosecution should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks they can buy illegal drugs online for personal use and get away with it. We will not hesitate to prosecute, no matter what the quantity,” says Customs Manager Investigations, Mark Day.
“With the expansion of online trading and the global marketplace we are increasingly finding that packages containing small amounts of illicit drugs are linked to illegal overseas-based trading websites, such as Silk Road. These websites are known to us and our intelligence capabilities include close monitoring of these sites.
“We frequently intercept drug packages at the International Mail Centre. Customs has processes and expertise in place to detect such packages and link them to the people involved.”
In 2012, over 52 million international mail items were processed by Customs, with around 1400 interceptions related to drugs. All mail items are subject to rigorous screening processes, including the use of detector dogs. The process allows legitimate mail to pass through efficiently, while identifying those that are high risk.