The Shift to Online Tobacco Trafficking

The illicit trade of tobacco products is a global phenomenon that has impacted the public health, the public finances and the security of nation states. A wide array of actors is involved in the illicit trade of tobacco, ranging from the individuals who bring home a few extra cartons of cigarettes while on a trip to the organized criminal organization of the mafia or terrorist type. The latter appears to be responsible for a very significant part of the illicit tobacco trade. While organized traffickers have traditionally used ports and roads to carry out their activities, a new generation of traffickers has turned to the Internet as a distribution channel for tobacco products. These traffickers are active on online illicit marketplaces known as cryptomarkets. Cryptomarkets are transactional websites hosted on the darknet, a section of the Internet where connections are encrypted by default and where every effort is made to protect the identity and localization of the participants. Anyone can become a vendor on a cryptomarket and put up listings for illicit products and services. Customers can then browse through the listings and select the best vendor for their needs. Cryptomarkets now generate sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars US per year.
While cryptomarkets have developed expertise in the sale of illicit drugs online, they are at the same time diversifying their activities into many new areas such as financial fraud, identity fraud and tobacco trafficking. The general aim of this paper is to describe and understand the shift to cryptomarkets in tobacco trafficking. More specifically, this paper aims to: 1) describe the different types of tobacco-related products available on cryptomarkets and the size and scope of the tobacco trafficking on cryptomarkets; 2) characterize the vendors who offer tobacco products on cryptomarkets as well as their involvement in the sale of other products and; (3) assess the place of tobacco trafficking in relation to other major categories of products offered on cryptomarkets. This paper will be descriptive in nature as it is one of the first to study the illicit trade of licit products on the darknet and cryptomarkets.
The paper is divided into four sections. Section I presents the current state of research on tobacco trafficking. Section II discusses the evolution of illicit online markets and explains how and why tobacco traffickers have come to adopt the darknet to illicitly trade tobacco. It also presents the research design and methods. Section III presents the analyzes that have allowed us to describe and understand tobacco trafficking on cryptomarkets. Finally, Section IV discusses the findings and finds that tobacco traffickers are important players in the cryptomarket ecosystem.

Ce contenu a été mis à jour le 1 novembre 2018 à 14 h 40 min.