Man found dead wanted for run­ning ‘dark web’ mar­ket

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A 26-year-old Cana­dian found dead in his Thai po­lice cell this week was wanted in the US for al­legedly run­ning a mas­sive “dark web” mar­ket­place for drugs and other con­tra­band, a po­lice source told AFP yes­ter­day. Thai cops ar­rested Alexan­dre Cazes in Bangkok on July 5 and had planned to ex­tra­dite him to the US, where he faced drug traf­fick­ing and money laun­der­ing charges. But the com­puter pro­gram­mer hanged him­self with a towel in his de­ten­tion cell a week later on July 12, ac­cord­ing to Thai anti-nar­cotics po­lice, who have been tight-lipped on the de­tails of his case.

Yes­ter­day, a Thai of­fi­cer con­firmed Cazes was ac­cused of be­ing an “op­er­a­tor” of a ma­jor on­line black mar­ket. “It’s a huge dark web mar­ket that traf­fics drugs and sells other il­le­gal stuff,” the po­lice of­fi­cer said, re­quest­ing anonymity. Spec­u­la­tion is rife that the un­der­ground mar­ket­place was Al­phaBay, con­sid­ered the world’s largest and most lu­cra­tive dark­net bazaar un­til it was taken down within hours of Cazes’ ar­rest.

Like its pre­de­ces­sor Silk Road, which was shut down by the FBI in 2013, Al­phaBay used the en­crypted Tor net­work and vir­tual cur­ren­cies like Bit­coin to shield cus­tomers from de­tec­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Ni­co­las Christin, a com­puter sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity, Al­phaBay gained promi­nence in 2015 and mostly traded in drugs, stolen credit cards and forged IDs. It was “more than twice as big as Silk Road was in its hey­day, with a rev­enue of some­where be­tween 600,000 and 800,000 dol­lars a day in early 2017, and that’s a rather con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate,” he told AFP.

Lux­ury lifestyle

Cazes ap­peared to be liv­ing a life of lux­ury in Thai­land, where he owned three houses and four cars - in­clud­ing a Lam­borgh­ini ac­cord­ing to Thai po­lice who have seized the as­sets. He slipped into the coun­try around eight years ago, ac­cord­ing to po­lice. “He was a com­puter ex­pert in­volved with in­ter­na­tional trans­ac­tions of Bit­coins,” said Ma­jor Gen­eral Soon­torn Chalermkiat, a spokesman for Thai­land’s Nar­cotics Sup­pres­sion Bu­reau.

“He didn’t have any busi­ness in Thai­land but he had many houses,” the of­fi­cer said, adding that Cazes’ Thai wife has since been charged with money laun­der­ing. The US Em­bassy in Bangkok re­fused to com­ment on the de­tails of the case, say­ing only that Cazes was de­tained at the re­quest of the US “with a view to­ward ex­tra­di­tion to face fed­eral crim­i­nal charges”. The founder of Silk Road - the world’s first and most fa­mous dig­i­tal drug mar­ket - was sen­tenced to life in prison by fed­eral court in New York in 2015. —AFP

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