John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Website's sinister sales

Drugs are for sale to Kiwis on the Silk Road website. Photo / Supplied
Drugs are for sale to Kiwis on the Silk Road website. Photo / Supplied

A hidden internet marketplace hawking drugs, guns, child porn - and even uranium - counts New Zealanders among its traders.

Silk Road, a website which promises anonymity to traders, is currently under investigation by a New Zealand government agency. More details on the investigation are expected later this month.

Heroin, methamphetamine, opium and other drugs are sold openly at the "anonymous marketplace". Some overseas vendors target Kiwi and Australian buyers.

One discussion, "successful New Zealand orders", features Silk Road clients commenting about drug deals. "It's all down to the vendor ... I've received stuff from the Netherlands, no problems," a user called Nineinchnails writes.

Another Silk Road user, Kiwiana, was interested in how big the potential market for cannabis could be. "Just seeing if there is any demand for a Kiwi vendor selling skunky buds ... If I get enough people I'll start up a vendor account.

Have heaps of bud but no clients so can do cheap prices."

A German-based drug vendor called Sesampino(97) had a batch of MDMA crystals for sale to Antipodeans. "Our product is always of highest quality and comes from the Dutch market. If you're buying this, then you already know what it is about. We ship a full gram, so not 0.8 or 0.9. You get what you pay for."

Sesampino explained how he exported drugs. "The envelope looks like a very normal invoice or business letter. We have used this system for years and never lost a shipment. "

Silk Road was accessed by downloading a browser, The Onion Router, known as TOR. Goods were bought with a virtual currency, Bitcoins. This week, one Bitcoin equalled NZ$8.09. Sesampino was selling 10g of "low-budget cocaine" for $720 this week. In New Zealand, 1g of cocaine had a street value of $350-$400.

Silk Road and other "Hidden Wiki" sites offered services including blackmail, fixed sports matches and assassination. Elsewhere, counterfeit Australian bank statements, university degrees and driving licences were discussed.

A Silk Road user called "nz" asks: "Could I get a NSW full off ya and transfer into full New Zealand licence?"

Silk Road also had products for paedophiles, offering child porn and advice on how to escape detection. This was the reason for a FBI investigation into it last month, and for an attack by hacker group Anonymous, which leaked information about child porn merchants.

A manifesto on the site outlined some of the beliefs Silk Road backers held. "We fundamentally believe that people can thrive and prosper under these conditions and so far tens of thousands have done so."

A new marketplace, The Armory, offered guns and weapons for sale. One user hoped it would deflect attention from Silk Road's drug trade. "Segregating the weapons trading from silk road may [displace] some of the heat aimed at this community.[sic]"

Officials here are reluctant to comment while investigating, but obvious problems are getting product into the country, and the risk of rip-offs.

- Herald on Sunday

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