Drug dealers are experimenting with outdoor advertising of their products in the most unexpected places. In social networks there were pictures from the car of the metropolitan subway. Unidentified people posted ads with QR codes leading to marketplaces on the Darknet on the walls. “Izvestia” understood what pushes the drug mafia to such an aggressive promotion of its dangerous product and why the drug advertising stickers feel unpunished.
In front of everyone
The scandal began because of the footage of an eyewitness who recorded on a mobile phone a professional printed advertisement for an online drug store in a Moscow metro car. The poster urged passengers to “switch to conscious consumption” along with a trading platform selling stuff, as drug dealers call their goods. For convenience, the authors of the advertisement placed a QR code to learn more about the portal. The link led to instructions on how to get into the Darknet and specifically to the marketplace.
“Advertising drugs in the metro is a glaring fact, I think that it is imperative to find those who paste these leaflets,” commented State Duma deputy, head of the Sober Russia project Sultan Khamzaev in an interview with Izvestia.
He drew attention to the fact that the use of synthetic drugs is growing, including among the youth.
The day after the news about drug advertising in the subway became public, the police tracked down the alleged posters – they are local residents, they are 19 years old, according to social networks.
Coming out of the shadows
At the disposal of Izvestia was the draft appeal of Deputy Khamzaev to the Prosecutor General of Russia Igor Krasnov. In the letter, the parliamentarian informs “about a significant increase” in drug advertising both on the Web and in public places, including in the subway, and asks to take prosecutorial response measures upon request.
“Another organization, similar in meaning, purchased a bus, plastered it with an advertisement for an online drug sales platform. The bus drove around the city for several days, Internet users noticed the vehicle on Kutuzovsky Prospekt and the Krasnopresnensky district of Moscow, ”the deputy cites another egregious case of the promotion of prohibited substances in a letter.
The pressure with which the bigwigs of the drug business have been acting lately revolts not only Muscovites. A few days ago, residents of Smolensk informed the local authorities about the appearance of a full-wall mural on Krupskaya Street with an invitation to join the ranks of the hoarders. A stylized Disney Donald Duck offers work from $200 a day, the text contains a link to a prohibited resource. However, it is not directly mentioned in the picture that you will have to lay out the powders in hiding places.
At the end of last year, the site of an illegal advertising campaign was the wall of a house in the center of St. Petersburg – a giant projection appeared on the facade of a high-rise building at the intersection of Kuibyshev and Michurinskaya streets. The organizers did not regret for the sake of advertising their marketplace projector, located in the attic of the house opposite.
“It is not the first year that we have been insisting on the creation of a cyberpolice in the system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which will eliminate such drug supply channels. The head of state supported the initiative of the Sober Russia project in 2018, such an instruction was given to the department,” the deputy added.
According to Sultan Khamzaev, this work is not being carried out in full, because the drug mafia also does not stand still. After the liquidation of the Hydra marketplace at the beginning of 2022, there is a tough fight between other sites. It is this confrontation that pushes black market players to shares on the verge of reason.
Izvestia’s source in the anti-drug division is also inclined to associate the activity of drug dealers with the redistribution of spheres of influence and the struggle for a buyer.
– The niche is now free, and several sites want to seize the initiative at once. This promises the organizers multimillion-dollar profits. Moreover, they risk much less than cladmen, synthetics manufacturers or the same ad posters, stencils. Now the consumer is experiencing certain difficulties in finding a reliable seller. There are a lot of channels in Telegram, they are often blocked, there are a lot of scammers in the sphere who throw addicts. Therefore, the market needs some kind of serious intermediary to ensure the purity of the transaction and conditional comfort, as it was on Hydra. The drug market is subject to the same laws of the market economy as the legal business areas,” the source added.
The problem of graphic advertising did not appear yesterday – public utilities barely manage to overwrite hieroglyphs with “dogs” (Internet addresses in social networks) and foreign phone numbers on the railway and city infrastructure. The fact is that stencilers who leave inscriptions with advertisements for prohibited substances and advertisements for recruiting mortgages, in fact, do not risk anything, lawyer Konstantin Kudryashov believes.
– In order to punish for complicity in the sale of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, it is necessary to seize them and conduct an examination, which under such circumstances is virtually impossible. Also, if you want to bring them to criminal responsibility, it may be difficult to prove intent – the stenciler can explain that he did not know for sure what he was advertising and did not check what the Internet platform was doing, the lawyer added.
Meanwhile, the criminalization of the actions of drug posters and “artists” is unlikely to change the situation with drug trafficking, the lawyer believes.
“Labeling is only the visible part of the iceberg, it is a small part of the infrastructure for the sale of drugs. Over the past few years, the drug trade in Russia has almost completely gone online, has become contactless, which has made the law enforcement system almost powerless in the face of this problem. Almost all those arrested and convicted for selling drugs now are the so-called pawnbrokers, who usually receive 10 years of strict regime for their deeds. But the detentions and arrests of these, as a rule, young or drug-addicted people do not affect the backbone of the drug trade – IT infrastructure, marketplaces and their owners, who are often located abroad for security reasons. We have to admit that the technologies for committing drug-related crimes have outstripped and, in fact, won the methods of combating them,” the expert adds.
Punish but heal
About 10-15 years ago, the seizure of a consignment of drugs spoke of the blocking of a major channel for their distribution and success, but now, in fact, it does not affect anything, since the organizer of the drug trade remains out of reach, the lawyer says. The main villain remains anonymous until he himself shows negligence. After a major police raid, he can buy a new wholesale lot on the same day and hire a new carrier, a pawnbroker.
– Volumes of criminal cases under articles 228, 228.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – on the acquisition, storage and sale of drugs – in court now look almost the same and differ only in the names of the accused, – says Kudryashov. “Penalties for drugs are harsh, but that hasn’t made them any less accessible.
He believes that the toughening of penalties for drug trafficking in 2012 has made crime more organized and technologically advanced.
“I see a way out of this situation in mitigating the punitive component towards the treatment of drug addicts, from whom addiction sucks all the vitality,” the lawyer summed up.