Forget Insta influencers and tattooed Harley riders or fitness junkies with bags of cash meeting in the haunts of the rich and infamous.

Today's 2021 drug trafficking crime lords are tech savvy, discrete, deal in Bitcoin, understand transnational laws and globally networked and likely living overseas to traffic anything, from drugs to arms, tobacco to laundered money.

And this year it is predicted 100 per cent of their business will be done online via encrypted channels with international collaboration "of unprecedented scale" to create wealth and crime lines at levels never seen, "testing" traditional policing approaches like never before.

That's the conclusion of an Australian Federal Police assessment that notes the changing face of the drugs trafficking crime boss into increasingly sophisticated digital criminals, posing new challenges for law enforcement including the AFP and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

The ACIC suspect at least 70 per cent of Australia's serious and organised crime threats are based offshore or have direct offshore links. One is an Australian casino boss, once listed by the AFP in the top four drug importers to Australia.

The West Australian man is suspected of bringing largely cocaine and MDMA for national market, notably the Eastern seaboard.

"All of this makes it difficult for law enforcement to attribute illicit activity to specific individuals, and it is technically difficult, and time and resource intensive, for law enforcement to take effective action," the agencies warn.

 

The secret Australian businessman suspected by police to be the global drug lord behind tonnes of cocaine, heroin and MDMA flooding Australia's shore and countries in Europe.
The secret Australian businessman suspected by police to be the global drug lord behind tonnes of cocaine, heroin and MDMA flooding Australia's shore and countries in Europe.

"The use of dark web platforms and anonymising technologies like bespoke encrypted devices is widespread amongst the main TSOC (Transnational, Serious and Organised Crime) groups the ACIC and its partners target.

"For example, currently over 90 per cent of content being lawfully intercepted uses some form of encryption. It is expected that soon nearly all communications content of law enforcement and intelligence investigative value will be encrypted."

 

Ciphr communications allowing for end to end encryption. Picture: Supplied
Ciphr communications allowing for end to end encryption. Picture: Supplied

It notes the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020, introduced in parliament last December, would "substantially boost the powers of the AFP and the ACIC to fight against serious and organised online crime.

But the agencies were having to "adapt and evolve to address new threats, such as the use of privacy-oriented crypto currencies and encrypted messaging platforms".

 

Law enforcement beating communications. Picture: Supplied
Law enforcement beating communications. Picture: Supplied

 

It noted criminals were using crypto currencies including Bitcoin for funds transfers "with a minimum degree of traceability" and encrypted communications platforms including Wickr, EncroChat and Ciphr which often operate on a closed network without the applications and connectivity of a normal mobile handset.

It notes some persons of interest were using the internet to buy access to Australian networks and computers to facilitate further endeavours burdens of proof to show who is behind crimes, becoming increasingly harder.

 

The AFP has busted some of these crime empires. Picture: Ian Currie
The AFP has busted some of these crime empires. Picture: Ian Currie

 

"The growing use of the dark web and other technologies that allow criminals to remain anonymous, is increasingly inhibiting agencies' ability to protect our community," the AFP said.

Technology it noted had made anonymous the criminals, specialising in drug and other illicit goods movement, ID theft or organising criminal activity, and "committing serious crimes at volume and across borders easier than ever before".

Anonymising technology refers to tech which can disguise a person's activities, location and true identity including through dedicated, closed encrypted communications platforms, some of which are operated exclusively for the global criminal market.

 

Known bikie associate Marco Coffen. Picture: Supplied
Known bikie associate Marco Coffen. Picture: Supplied

 

Marco Coffen, who is a person of interest in the shooting murder of a security guard in Sydney in 2009, has reportedly bought the Ciphr Australian distribution rights as well as invested in other high tech online firms.

Coffen, who speaks three languages, is rarely if ever seen on social media, lives overseas mostly in the United Arab Emirates and Italy and is still linked to the Comanchero in Australia.

Originally published as 5G drug lords: Where they're taking cocaine and MDMA next


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