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Netherlands plays prominent role in drug trade facilitated by cryptomarkets: Report

In a recently published report, RAND Europe has analysed the size and scope of internet-facilitated drugs trade both on clear and dark web, paying special attention to the Netherlands.

Prepared for the Ministry of Security and Justice, Research and Documentation Centre (WODC), the report “Internet-facilitated drugs trade: An analysis of the size, scope and the role of the Netherlands” has been documented in collaboration with Judith Aldridge (University of Manchester) and David Décary-Hétu (University of Montreal).

“The Netherlands occupies a crucial position in European illicit drug markets. Data from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) suggested it is the main producer of ecstasy and herbal cannabis and a key distribution hub for cannabis resin and cocaine”, it said.

The study considers trade via cryptomarkets as well as drugs trade facilitated by the clear net. It identified nearly 50 live cryptomarkets and single-vendor shops on the hidden web. The three largest markets, AlphaBay, Nucleus, and Dreammarket, accounted for about 65 per cent of all listings across all products and services.

It further noted that customers of cryptomarkets tend to pay for products and services with cryptocurrencies. Bitcoins have been the dominant cryptocurrency used on cryptomarkets. However, the authors said that although cryptocurrencies are an obvious means of payment on the dark web, they are not a prerequisite.

According to the report, based on drug revenue generation, the United States was the most prominent country with 36 percent of all drug revenues going to vendors who advertise shipping from it, while the Netherlands is the fifth largest country with ‘Dutch vendors’ accounting for 7.8 per cent of all drug revenues. In addition, the Netherlands were in sixth place in regards to revenue per vendor but had a much higher ratio of vendors per inhabitant than other countries.

“Our data suggested that the Netherlands seems to play a prominent role in drugs trade facilitated by the cryptomarkets. We found 212 vendors that ‘ship from’ the Netherlands (13.4 vendors per million population). Most vendors appeared to be operating from the United States (890 or 2.8 per million population), followed by the United Kingdom (338 or 5.3 per million population), and Germany (225 or 2.8 per million population)”, the report stated. “Revenues to vendors operating from the Netherlands in the cryptomarkets analysed was 2.4 times higher than those from the United Kingdom and 4.5 higher than those from the United States”.

However, the authors said that they found little evidence of the demand side for drugs in the Netherlands. Almost no listings were posted by ‘Dutch vendors’ that targeted only customers in the Netherlands. Also, little or no evidence supported the view that Dutch customers were using the Internet to buy drugs.

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