Three Norwegian men who were originally arrested in 2015 in connection with drug dealing on the original Silk Road web site, as well as on Silk Road 2.0, have finally been charged. Prosecutors in the case are demanding the accused drug dealers pay 120 BTC, in addition to 3.1 million Norwegian kroner. The country has never before asked for payment in Bitcoin. However, prosecutors have denied that the country is in any way officially recognizing Bitcoin. Norway considers Bitcoin to be an asset that is subject to a capital gains tax.
Prosecutor Richard Beck Pederson told the Associated Press that the investigation has been ongoing for two years. Law enforcement in Norway worked with investigators from other countries to build the case against the three men. After American law enforcement shut down the Silk Road, the names of hundreds of Norwegians who traded drugs on the site were shared with prosecutors in Norway. Norwegian law enforcement participated in the international investigation known as Operation Marco Polo to investigate and prosecute the largest Norwegian Silk Road vendors. Operation Marco Polo is Norway’s first and largest investigation into the drug trade on the darknet.
Prosecutors accuse the three men of forming an organized group that intended to distribute drugs online. The three men were apprehended by police in the greater Oslo area in June of 2015, where police seized computers, large amounts of drugs, and shut down an unlawful indoor marijuana grow operation. It is not known whether the marijuana grow operation shut down in 2015 is related to one that was also shut down that same year in connection with Operation Marco Polo, where a grow operation of 150 marijuana plants in the basement of a house in Skien were seized.
All three of the accused drug dealers are around 30 years of age. While the case is connected with the Silk Road, which was shut down in 2013, it is not clear from news reports if the three men hosted their own darknet shop in addition to being vendors on the Silk Road. The three men accused of dealing drugs on the darknet are expected to face trial later this year. The three men are among 15 people who were arrested as a result of the Operation Marco Polo investigation, five of which were said by law enforcement to be the largest darknet drug dealers in Norway. According to law enforcement, some of the accounts the dealers traded under were “Kvalitetsbevisst,” “Alfa&Omega,” and “Deeplove”.
While the original Silk Road darknet market has been shut down for four years, cases related to drugs and weapons dealing on the site continue to be prosecuted around the world. The convicted founder and maintainer of the Silk Road darknet marketplace was Ross Ulbricht, who was arrested on October 2nd, 2013 at a library in San Francisco, California. Ulbricht was ultimately convicted in federal court on February 4th, 2015, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Ross Ulbricht is currently continuing to appeal his case in federal court. Nearly 30,000 bitcoins were seized when law enforcement took control of the servers. Lyn Ulbricht, the mother of Ross Ulbricht, has been going across the United States speaking about her son’s case and in December of last year held a Free-Ross-A-Thon to help raise money for Ross’ legal fees and court costs.
In 2013 a new version of the Silk Road, known as Silk Road 2.0, was launched. In December of 2013 some of the administrators of the site were arrested. On November 6th, 2014, the FBI arrested Blake Benthall, the creator of Silk Road 2.0, in a joint operation with Europol and Eurojust known as Operation Onymous. Following the demise of Silk Road 2.0, Diabolus Market changed it’s name to Silk Road 3 Reloaded, and another separate I2P eepsite marketplace was launched by other people not associated with Diabolus Market, called Silk Road Reloaded. Both of those darknet marketplaces have since went offline. Several sites used the same name, however, one Silk Road 3 Reloaded appears to still remain in operation, though it has no actual ties to the original Silk Road or Silk Road 2.0.