Feds in­fil­trate dark­net

Two prom­i­nent dig­i­tal drug mar­ket­places knocked out in one-two punch

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Raphael Satter and Frank Bajak

PARIS» Two of the world’s most no­to­ri­ous “dark­net” mar­ket­places have been knocked out in an op­er­a­tion of­fi­cials say yielded a trove of new in­tel­li­gence about drugs and weapons mer­chants that op­er­ate from hid­den corners of the in­ter­net.

Al­phaBay, pre­vi­ously the in­ter­net’s largest dark­net site, went off­line July 5 and was widely as­sumed to have been taken out by author­i­ties. But on Thurs­day, Euro­pean law en­force­ment re­vealed that a sec­ond dark­net site known as Hansa also had been in po­lice hands for the past month, an an­nounce­ment de­lib­er­ately de­signed to sow panic among tech-savvy deal­ers and buy­ers.

“This is the largest dark­net mar­ket­place take­down in his­tory,” At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions told re­porters in Washington, ac­cord­ing to a pre­pared ver­sion of his state­ment. He ac­cused on­line ven­dors of “pour­ing fuel on the fire of the na­tional drug epi­demic”


and warned that “the dark­net is not a place to hide.”

The dark­net, a part of the in­ter­net ac­ces­si­ble only through spe­cial­ized anonymity-pro­vid­ing tools, is an at­trac­tive place for sales of drugs, weapons and other il­le­gal mer­chan­dise. Mer­chants and buy­ers can op­er­ate with rel­a­tive open­ness while still keep­ing their iden­ti­ties se­cret.

A Cal­i­for­nia in­dict­ment named Al­phaBay’s founder as Cana­dian Alexan­dre Cazes, say­ing the 25-year-old had amassed a for­tune of $23 mil­lion, in­clud­ing a small for­tune in dig­i­tal cur­rency. The in­dict­ment said he spent the money on real es­tate, lux­ury cars and the pur­suit of “eco­nomic cit­i­zen­ship” in Liecht­en­stein, Thai­land and Cyprus.

Cazes died in po­lice cus­tody just over a week ago, ac­cord­ing to Thai po­lice. The chief of Thai­land’s nar­cotics po­lice told re­porters that Cazes hanged him­self in jail just prior to a sched­uled court hear­ing.

The law en­force­ment op­er­a­tion was aimed at gather­ing as many new leads as pos­si­ble and max­i­miz­ing con­fu­sion within the dark­net

Pub­licly as­sailed by Trump, Ses­sions says he’s stay­ing on • WASHINGTON»

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, pub­licly skew­ered by his boss for step­ping clear of the Rus­sia-Trump in­ves­ti­ga­tions, de­clared Thurs­day he still loves his job and plans to stay on. Yet Don­ald Trump’s air­ing of his long-sim­mer­ing frus­tra­tions with Ses­sions raised sig­nif­i­cant new ques­tions about the fu­ture of the nation’s top pros­e­cu­tor.

The White House was quick to in­sist that the pres­i­dent “has con­fi­dence” in Ses­sions. How­ever, the episode un­der­scored how the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s crime-fight­ing agenda is be­ing over­shad­owed by his frac­tured re­la­tion­ship with Trump and the con­tin­u­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian ties to the Repub­li­can can­di­date’s pres­i­den­tial campaign.

The chal­lenges for Ses­sions were laid bare Thurs­day when the at­tor­ney gen­eral, at a Jus­tice De­part­ment news con­fer­ence to an­nounce the take­down of a mam­moth in­ter­net drug mar­ket­place, faced zero ques­tions about that case and was in­stead grilled on his re­ac­tion to be­ing ex­co­ri­ated by Trump in a New York Times in­ter­view a day ear­lier. The news con­fer­ence on the drug case was quickly ended once it was clear re­porters would ask only about the in­ter­view. — The As­so­ci­ated Press drug-buy­ing com­mu­nity, ac­cord­ing to Dutch cy­ber­crime pros­e­cu­tor Mar­tijn Eg­berts.

Eg­berts told The As­so­ci­ated Press that in­ves­ti­ga­tors had taken con­trol of the Hansa mar­ket and im­per­son­ated the ad­min­is­tra­tors for the past month. Drug sales con­tin­ued as usual as in­ves­ti­ga­tors logged each trans­ac­tion and sent ship­ment de­tails to lo­cal po­lice forces in the rel­e­vant area. Over the course of the en­tire op­er­a­tion, he said that Dutch po­lice were able to scoop up some 10,000 ad­dresses for Hansa buy­ers out­side the Nether­lands.

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