Dutch drugs on the dark web


Police visited four Wakatipu homes after Dutch police tip-offs about ecstasy and acid sourced on the dark web.

Three Queenstown properties and one in Arrowtown were among 83 addresses visited by officers across New Zealand in November.

They were linked to the attempted importation of illicit drugs bought via the dark web or dark net – websites on an encrypted network which can’t be found using traditional search engines or browsers.

Operation Garden was a two-week “prevention-focused” operation, as those identified were importing MDMA and LSD for personal use rather than dealing. No one was arrested, although a number of police warnings were issued.

NZ Police’s national organised crime group worked with their Dutch counterparts over several months to identify targets.

They didn’t release the locations of the addresses at the time, but have now made them available after an Official Information Act request from Mountain Scene.

Assistant commissioner investigations Richard Chambers said at the time the aim was to avoid people getting trapped in the downward spiral of drug addiction.

But he also warned the cops are stepping up their game.

“Criminal activity conducted online is an increasing focus for NZ Police.”

In September, it was announced the national force would be boosted with an extra 77 officers to help target high-tech/cyber crime.

“This includes a major focus on policing the dark net and combating the trade of illicit commodities,” Chambers said.

“Our message to people using the dark net is simple: the dark net is not anonymous. And if you’re using the dark net to conduct criminal activity, you should think again.”

In November, French computer professional Fabrice Rene Lorenzo Cattelan, 29, living in Queenstown, was jailed for seven months for importing 108g of MDMA – with an estimated street value of $35,000.

The large amount triggered the assumption he was importing to supply, and that informed the sentencing.

Cattelan had been arrested as he left Queenstown District Court building in October after being convicted and fined $300 for possession of LSD.

However, the police prosecutor did not go into detail in court about how Cattelan was caught.

The vast majority of Operation Garden visits were in Canterbury (30), with Auckland second (16). Southern Police visited eight properties; the four in Queenstown, three in Dunedin and one in Roxburgh.