This article originally appeared on VICE Denmark
Last year, as I was making my way through the chaos of Roskilde Festival in Denmark, I ran into two guys who looked smug, were partying hard and wore bum bags stuffed with cash. I recognised one of them as a former drug dealer from the Copenhagen club scene, and when I talked to him I found out that they were celebrating the successful outcome of a devious plan. "People here are so stupid," my acquaintance told me.
Hasse and Danni* had just sold ground up paracetamol as cocaine to a bunch of drunk and/or naive festival-goers – all of them eager to spend between £60 and even £100 on a gram. The scam is as simple as it is cynical, and it's not like Hasse and Danni invented it. I found that at Roskilde, it's almost a rite of passage to return to your friends and your tent with a baggie of what is most likely a mix of washing powder and some over-the-counter medicine. For every drunk person thinking a line is essential to the party's chances of lasting, there's an asshole ready to scam them.
Obviously, that doesn't make the crime less abhorrent. Recently, just before this year's edition of Roskilde, which took place last week, I got in touch with Hasse and Danni to talk about what drove them to do something so mean.
VICE: Why did you decide to do something so heartless, last year?
Hasse: It was a pretty impulsive decision. We both wanted to go to Roskilde, but we were also broke.
Danni: We figured we'd make a little extra money selling paracetamol as cocaine to drunk people. We bought ten packs of paracetamol at a supermarket, ground it up and packaged it in tiny ziplock bags.
Hasse: Buying paracetamol in bulk was actually the hardest part – we had to answer a bunch of questions about whether we knew what we were doing with that stuff.
And then, at the festival, you just walked up to people and ripped them off?
Hasse: We didn't really have to do much. We just walked around – it's not difficult to see if people are already on something. So maybe we'd be like, "What's up, my friend? You look pretty wasted. Are you only drinking tonight or do you want something more?" Or people would just ask if we had anything – and pretty soon, their friends would show up, too.
So people just accepted the paracetamol you were selling?
Danni: Some potential customers wanted to sample the merchandise and we let them do that. Many people know that cocaine can leave you with a sense of numbness on your tongue and gums, but that can also be the stuff it's cut with. We turned that around and said, "Look, this isn't cut with all kinds of crap. That's why your gums aren't turning numb. But give it a second – this is good shit!" We had a couple of suspicious buyers here and there, but then there's always a mate standing close by pressuring them like, "Come on, we've been looking to score for ages. Just get it already!"
Hasse: We had also cut some of it in larger chunks which we then marketed as super high quality. We charged 500 kroner [£59] for the standard stuff and 900 kroner [£106] for the exclusive product. We sold more of that last one. People will believe anything, especially at a festival like Roskilde, if you're friendly and toast to a great night with them.
How much did you make then?
Danni: We ended up spending a lot of it at the festival, but we each made at least 5.000 kroner [£590] within two hours of selling the stuff.
Meet a cocaine dealer running his business out of a sham council flat, in Episode 1 of The Great Council House Scam
It's really shitty to scam people like that.
Hasse: Yes, morally speaking, we weren't operating in a grey area. There's no way around it.
Danni: But honestly, is it any better to sell people shitty coke, cut with all kinds of weird chemicals? Sure, we scammed people, but we didn't sell them poison that'll destroy their immune system.
That's hardly an excuse though, is it?
Danni: True. But I'm pretty sure snorting a bag of shit cocaine will make you feel a lot worse than ground up paracetamol. Before doing all of this, we googled potential health risks in snorting painkillers, and couldn't find any. Obviously, it's not recommended, but it won't kill you in these quantities. If the alternative is shitty coke, I know which is the safest. At least paracetamol is approved by the health authorities.
Author's note: I contacted Dr. Kim Dahlhoff from Giftlinjen , a Danish hotline that advises people on poisonous substances, who confirmed there's no particular risk associated with snorting paracetamol in small quantities – except for irritation to the mucous membranes in the nose. But that's obviously a risk with actual cocaine, too.
Hasse: I know, it's not cool. But we've all been there once. And it's not like we're jumping people and stealing their money. We only dealt with willing customers. Generally, people should be more aware of what they buy.
Danni: I think we were actually teaching people a valuable lesson. At some point you gotta get street smart.
Did you ever consider that what you were doing is illegal?
Danni: Yes, but we weren't actually carrying around illegal drugs. That would have been a bigger issue.
Weren't you worried that someone would try to get revenge? Use violence to get their money back?
Hasse: I was a little worried when we sold to this guy with facial tattoos – he looked like a biker. He bought two grams, but he was super nice about it.
Danni: People are just in the festival mode, they don't really think too hard about their decisions. And the fact that we let customers sample the stuff made them more willing to pay. Very few people can actually tell what's in their system a few seconds after doing it. It takes them a while to realise they've been duped.
Hasse: At which point we were well out of sight.
Are you planning on doing the same thing this year?
Danni: I don't think so. I feel kind of bad about it as it is, and I'm also currently waiting for my day in court on another matter, so I have to keep that in mind, too. Even though it's not actual drug dealing, I doubt it will look good if I get caught.
Hasse: I'm haven't totally decided yet, but chances are that l will.
Author's note: I contacted Hasse again after this year's Roskilde, and he confirmed he did sell paracetamol as cocaine at the festival grounds again this year. He said it was harder this time around, but he still managed to dupe a lot of festival-goers out of a lot of money.*Hasse and Danni's names have been changed for legal reasons.