A parliamentary committee has found that criminal enterprises adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic by infiltrating food delivery companies and using them to deliver drugs across Australia.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement focused on trends and changes in criminal activity and law enforcement as a result of the pandemic.
The committee, led by Brisbane Liberal MP Julian Simmonds, was told how organised crime groups had been “very adaptive and clever” in the use of the “unregulated food delivery industry”.
The report explained how the domestic delivery of illicit drugs diversified as a result of travel restrictions and the resourcefulness of organised crime gangs.
“There’s a lot of app food delivery drivers coming to people’s doors, and it’s a largely unregulated industry at the moment,” said Mr Simmonds.
“When organised criminal gangs see a lack of regulation, they will see a way in and they will take advantage of it, and we saw them using that as a delivery mechanism when people were otherwise not able to move around.” he continued.
The report states how the system was taken advantage of due to limited measures in place to track and identify couriers, and delivery content as well as the lack of certification of food delivery workers.
It has recommended that the food delivery industry be regulated through the introduction of guidelines and protocols similar to that of other delivery services.
“Measures could be designed to establish a clear chain of movement and possession of a product.” it explains.
Despite these claims, leading food delivery apps such as UberEats and Menulog, have insisted that they regularly monitor their platforms for illegal activity.
“Our dedicated law enforcement response team, which includes former Australian police officers, is on-hand to assist police in their investigation into any such matter.” refuted a spokesperson from UberEats.
Menulog also explained how all couries “must submit a police background check prior to commencing with Menulog” and that it ultimately “condemns such behaviour and would not tolerate it happening on its network”.
Latest crime statistics show that figures relating to dealing and trafficking in drugs such as cannabis and amphetamines have remained stable over the past 2 years, whilst dealing and trafficking in cocaine has risen by 7.5%.
Pursuant to section 25(1) of the Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW) (the Act), a person who supplies, or who knowingly takes part in the supply of, an amount of a prohibited drug, is guilty of an offence.
A prohibited drug includes cocaine, cannabis, MDMA, amphetamine, heroin, and ketamine among other drugs listed in Schedule 1 of the Act.
‘Supply’ is provided with a considerably extended definition, with section 3(1) stating that it includes:
- Sell and distribute,
- Agreeing to supply,
- Offering to supply,
- Keeping or having in possession for supply,
- Sending, forwarding, delivering, or receiving for supply, or
- Authorising, directing, causing, suffering, permitting, or attempting any of those acts or things.
The maximum penalty applicable to supply of a prohibited drug will ultimately depend on the quantity of drugs involved.
The Act distinguishes between a small, traffickable, indictable, commercial, and large commercial quantities.
Each prohibited drug has its own unique quantities that correspond to these categories, under Schedule 1.
Section 33 prescribes that where supply involves an amount of a prohibited drug which is not less than the commercial quantity applicable to the prohibited drug, the maximum penalty applicable is a $385,000 and/or 20 years imprisonment.
However, if this offence relates to cannabis plant or cannabis leaf the maximum penalty applicable is a fine of $385,000 and/or 15 years in jail.
In the event supply involves not less than the large commercial quantity of the prohibited plant or drug concerned, the maximum penalty applicable is a fine of $550,000 and/or life imprisonment.
These offences are strictly indictable, which means that it cannot be dealt with in the Local Court and therefore will be heard before the District Court.
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