The quality of the drug ecstasy in Australia is deteriorating rapidly, creating a potentially lucrative market for criminal syndicates supplying pure forms of the drug, according to a report issued yesterday by the Australian Crime Commission .
The report, which focuses on organised crime in Australia, quantified the social cost of underworld activity at $15billion per year, and warned Mexican drug cartels were gaining a foothold in Australia, particularly in cocaine importation.
The commission described Australia as an irresistibly lucrative market for drug traffickers, and said the illicit drug trade remained the biggest source of income for organised crime syndicates.
''Australians are among the world's highest per capita consumers of illicit stimulants, and drug prices in Australia far exceed prices overseas, making domestic drug production and importation highly profitable,'' the report said.
But the report found that ecstasy, commonly supplied by European and Israeli syndicates, as well as outlaw motorcycle gangs, was now in low demand due to the deteriorating quality of the drug.
The report stated that a global shortage of an ecstasy precursor, the chemical 3,4 MDP2P, was causing deficiencies in drug quality.
''Latent demand for high quality MDMA remains strong, but the large number of low purity or inactive tablets sold as MDMA appears to be resulting in some users moving away from using such tablets.''
The report warned that demand for the drug would quickly re-establish if high purity products reappeared.
Although European syndicates were the dominant importers, West African criminal groups, which were active in Australia, were also identified as an emerging supplier of ecstasy.
The report found that cocaine use and cocaine arrests were at historically high levels, with importation from Central and South America making the drug widely available in Australia.
The producers and distributors of cocaine were described by the Australian Crime Commission as ''among the most sophisticated, profitable and powerful criminal networks in the world''.
Mexican drug cartels were identified as one of the key players in cocaine importation, and the report warned that these cartels were becoming deeply entrenched in Australia and across the globe.
''Mexican drug cartels now have a foothold on most continents and profits that rival the [gross domestic product] of some of the world's smaller nations,'' the report said.
The social costs of cocaine use were estimated to be at about $300million per year; much lower than opiate use at $4.5billion per year, and cannabis at $3.1billion per year.
It found that Australian syndicates protected themselves through counter-intelligence and counter-surveillance operations.
Criminal syndicates also relied on violence, intimidation and extortion to generate fear and to out-compete legitimate business.
Syndicates were described as being ''loose networks of individuals'', rather than the clear, hierarchical structures, defined by a strict criteria for membership.
BY CHRISTOPHER KNAUS POLICE REPORTER
16 Apr, 2011 12:00 AM
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