On 8 February 2019, 19-year-old Jewel Victoria Griffiths was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment for importing 121.76 milligrams of carfentanyl into Australia with no commercial intent. She will be eligible for release on recognisance after five months, subject to paying $5000 and being of good behaviour for six months.
Carfentanyl is a synthetic opioid and an analogue of fentanyl, the opioid that killed Prince. However it is 100 times more potent than fentanyl—and 10,000 times more potent than morphine—and normally used in extremely small dosages to tranquilize elephants.
The tipoff that the drug had entered Australia came from an unlikely source: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. After searching the home of a dark web vendor in Kelowna, British Columbia, they informed their Australian Federal Police (AFP) colleagues that a consignment of carfentanyl was destined for Australia.
This information, in conjunction with open-source enquiries, led the AFP to suspect an 18-year-old woman living in Scarborough, Western Australia had ordered the substance.
When the AFP executed a search warrant in August 2017 on her address, Ms Jewel Griffiths told them she had received an envelope with a powder inside she thought was “drugs”. She said that it had arrived a week earlier but she was going to mark it “return to sender”.
Ms Griffiths lied and said she hadn’t ordered anything through the dark web, said the substance was not hers and that she didn’t go by the name ‘Jules’.
However, when AFP digital forensics officers examined devices belonging to Ms Griffiths, they found evidence of all these things, as well as advice on how to order drugs using a correct address but different first name so the recipient could gain a ‘legal excuse’. They also found a list of drug types such as fentanyl and carfentanyl.
The National Measurement Institute safely weighed and tested the toxic substance and identified it as 121.76 milligrams of carfentanyl.
In sentencing Ms Griffiths, Judge Burrows said she had never seen anything as dangerous as this and that it was “quite frankly frightening”. The judge said the risk of importing such a toxic substance was substantial, particularly given it would have likely resulted in Ms Griffiths’ death, and also posed a real risk to her younger siblings.
Judge Burrows also said that that the increase in fentanyl usage in Western Australia, and the increasing use of the dark web to obtain such substances, meant general deterrence was the prime consideration in sentencing.
Ms Griffiths was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment to be eligible for release on recognisance after five months, subject to paying $5000 and being of good behaviour for six months in relation to:
- One count of importing a border controlled drug (carfentanyl) contrary to s307.4(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).