NSWGreat is a drug dealer. But you won’t find him on the street. He’s making his fortune by selling anonymously, behind a computer screen.

Inspired by people such as Ross William Ulbricht, the now jailed founder of the infamous Silk Road, the dealer has been selling drugs to Australians on the dark web for six years.

He’s one of many dark web drug dealers — or vendors as they call themselves — who are offering product to Australians who believe (incorrectly) that drugs bought online are somehow ‘safer’ than those bought on the street.

His website looks a lot like a legitimate eCommerce site, where customers can order a vast array of illegal goods to be sent directly to their letterbox, c/o Australia Post.

The difference between NSWGreat and most other dark net vendors is that he’s more willing to talk. And talk he has.

Over a series of conversations through the secure texting service Wickr, NSWGreat revealed that he’s been peddling drugs on the dark net for over six years.

After starting out as a staff member on the now-defunct Silk Road 2.0, NSWGreat noticed a need for skilful dealers and not long after, “graduated” to an individual seller. NSWGreat runs a store on each of the most-frequented marketplaces, and boasts staff members all over the country.

Unashamedly, he admits: “I was quite inspired by Breaking Bad, that an intellect is able to be successful in the drug game.”

NSWGreat and his team of ghosts import substances from overseas for his rotating product line. He’s “smuggled” inordinate amounts illegal drugs, and his users have given him a high rating.

But while NSWGreat may be basking in his ‘success’ right now, the AFP are confident they will bring him, and other similar drug dealers down one day.

A spokesman from the agency told news.com.au: “If Australians are using the dark web to conceal criminal activity, your anonymity is not guaranteed and you are not outside the reach of law enforcement.”

But that threat isn’t stopping NSWGreat from continuing his operation.

Profit is, of course, his primary motivation.

He claims to live “on a salary similar to that of a CEO with much less work and definitely a lot more enjoyment.”, which beckons the question: why he doesn’t retire while he’s ahead?

It would seem he has no such plans. “ … the lifestyle and thrill of being a drug smuggler is addictive”, he admits.

In addition to the easy cash, he enjoys chewing the fat with customers about their lives, their addictions, and the ramifications of their drug use. He spends hours scouring case studies — researching substances that he then imports, sells, and even consumes.

He justifies the continuation of his business by claiming he’s contributing to society, citing the fact that recreational drug users are a large subculture and part of “the Australian way of life”.

Whichever way NSWGreat chooses to frame his behaviour, there’s no denying that he’s an internationally wanted fugitive.

Through Reddit and email, he’s received subpoenas from overseas bodies such as Department of Homeland Security, Interpol, Europol, FBI, and the Secret Service. While other dark web dealers have been arrested in recent years, NSWGreat is brazen in his belief he won’t be caught.

“I’m confident in my ability to stay anonymous as NSWGreat.”

Perhaps he remains somewhat cocky due to the authorities’ continuing struggles when tracking both prominent dark net vendors and their customers. This frustration was confirmed by an AFP spokesman who told news.com.au: “The robust encryption technologies used by dark net marketplace vendors and customers present difficulties for law enforcement.”

They confirmed one of their major difficulties was that “cryptocurrencies used on dark net marketplaces operate outside the traditional financial systems and require specialised software and expertise to analyse transactions.” In other words, this is still relatively new and bumpy terrain for the AFP.

This isn’t to say they can’t claim successes. In 2013, they located and arrested Peter Nash, an Australian-based administrator of Silk Road. In 2016, they were a part of a co-ordinated global effort that saw numerous Australian dark net dealers charged, as well as the seizure of drugs including MDMA, steroids, cannabis, opium, cocaine and methylamphetamine.

Since the AFP National Forensic Rapid Lab (NFRL) was established in 2013, over 15,000 packages containing over 2.5 tons of illicit drugs have been taken out of rotation.

When I asked NSWGreat whether he had a message for Australian law enforcement, he quickly separated himself from offline dealers and offers the following advice: “Focus your resources on the methamphetamine epidemic and continue to suppress biker clubs on the street. They are second-class citizens and deserve the wrath of justice.”

A common belief held by those on both sides of the virtual checkout is that dark net marketplaces guarantee the user a much higher degree of safety than that of the wider world.

A customer can access detailed feedback from others who’ve tried and tested each product, and most vendors go out of their way to ensure their ratings remain high — even reshipping lost packages or compensating for user dissatisfaction.

Not only that, but users can score their drugs behind the protection of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) eliminating the need to interact with criminals face-to-face.

While the second part might be true, the AFP myth busts the first:

“Analysis highlights that there is minimal differences observed between drugs suspected to be sourced via dark net marketplace and those sourced via more ‘traditional’ means”, the AFP said. “Regardless of where drugs are sourced from, they have the potential to cause serious harm and even death.”

When asked if he’s a good person, NSWGreat says, “Yes”.

“I have morals and I do my best to be honest. I had a good upbringing and in hindsight understand when I’ve made poor decisions,” he said. “Most of my lapses in judgment are drug induced. Sober NSWGreat is generally a good person, but there is always a yin for a yang.”

As for the trajectory his life has taken, NSWGreat wears it proudly. “It has been a once in a lifetime experience. I’ve met a lot of interesting people, distributed millions in product annually to tens of thousands of fellow Australians,” he said.

I have no idea who NSWGreat might be. I don’t know his age, or ethnicity, or whether he’s really a he, or even if he’s more than one person.

From wherever in the country NSWGreat connects to his VPN, he ends the conversation with an celebratory phrase that’s just as concerning to parents and cops as it is comforting to vendors and users: “Long live the dark net.”

Time will only tell for how long.