The story of a 20-year-old student being allegedly murdered by two former police officers over a $3 million ice deal gone wrong could be a work of fiction.
But police allege that is exactly what happened in Sydney’s outer suburbs last week.
Anyone who watched the hit television series Breaking Bad will know that there is an obscene amount of money to be made from cooking and dealing crystal meth.
So what does the ice business in Australia look like?
With a street value of $300,000 per kilo, it’s little surprise that everyone from university students to crooked cops are involved.
There is no shortage of demand for the highly addictive drug with rates of meth use in Australia one of the highest in the world.
An Australian Crime Commission report estimates that seven per cent of the population over the age of 14 have used methamphetamine at least once in their lifetime.
Twenty three per cent of respondents to a 2013 drug user survey also named meth as their drug of choice, up from 16 per cent in 2000.
The use of crystal meth is booming while other drugs are declining, something that experts say is due to methamphetamine’s low production costs.
Associate Professor of Criminology at Bond University, Dr Terry Goldsworthy, says that there is a huge market for crystal meth in Australia.
“The profit ratio is reasonable, to be honest. The manufacturing process isn’t that cost prohibitive. As long as you get precursors [chemicals] in, and have somewhere to cook, it is cheap,” says Dr Goldsworthy.
He says that crystal meth use is now on par with cocaine use at seven per cent.
“Usage rates are staying up, if not increasing, so you’ve got market there. If you can see increase for demand in product then obviously you will try and get it out there.”
While the consumption of other amphetamines like speed declines, crystal meth is still on a rapid rise.
Data from the 2010 Australia Bureau of Statistics put profit margins for crystal meth sales at 98 per cent, a figure that is virtually unparalleled in any other industry.
While profits are high, dealers and suppliers can’t expect too much growth on their return. The median price per gram was $500 in 2013, a figure that hasn’t changed since 2011.
Flooding the borders
But the highly addictive nature of the drug means looks strong for years to come, with the Australian border being flooded by crystal meth imports.
“Interceptions last year at the Australia border showed a large amount of crystal meth was coming in from overseas. It’s becoming the drug of choice for markets,” says Dr Goldsworthy.
The amount of amphetamines intercepted by border officials increased by more than 500 per cent from 2011 to 2013.
The ACC also estimates that there were 21,000 seizures of amphetamines in 2012-2013, the highest on record and second only to cannabis.
As demand grows, shipments worth tens of millions of dollars are arriving from countries like China, Canada and Thailand.
In 2012-2013, border protection intercepted shipments of crystal meth with a combined street value of $420 million.
Heroin was once a popular choice for drug users, but after a crackdown on Taliban supply of opium, it became increasingly expensive.
As long as other drugs are unavailable, crystal meth will be in demand, says Dr Goldsworthy.
“Crystal meth use will get up even higher with heroin being hard to get and very expensive. People turned to another drug and that was crystal meth.”