At a recent hearing at a District Court in Dortmund, Germany, one of the three suspects accused of running a carfentanil trafficking operation through an account on a darkweb marketplace admitted to his role in the conspiracy. Three men—two brothers and a younger business associate—face lengthy prison sentences after German special forces raided their apartments in 2017 in response to an investigation that uncovered the men had been producing their own carfentanil and using toxic chemicals in the process.
The case attracted media attention due to the unexpected nature of the raid by the German Federal Police Unit for Combating Serious Organized Crime and Terrorism (GSG 9). Furthermore, early announcements accused the brothers and their alleged accomplice of selling dangerous substances on the darkweb that led to at least one confirmed fatal overdose and many other non-fatal overdoses. German law enforcement targeted the alleged dealers following the overdose of a 15 year old Norwegian boy in March 2017.
Chemical and biological weapon rumors started after authorities revealed that they had seized botulinum toxin (Botox) and potassium cyanide from the apartment where one of the alleged conspirators synthesized fentanyl, carfentanil, various fentanyl analogues, and assorted opioids. German law defines botulinum toxin as a biological weapon and allows only licensed individuals to handle or administer Botox for medical purposes. Although botulinum toxin has been tested as a biological weapon, officials have generally concluded that it would be relatively useless in contrast to other substances. It took German authorities six months to conclude that the alleged dealers had no intent to weaponize botulinum toxin or potassium cyanide and that both toxic substances were simply part of the drug operation.
During those six months, German prosecutors came to various agreements with the three alleged drug traffickers. The brothers, both living in Hamm at the time of the raid, both played different roles in the operation. The younger brother gave his statement in front of German officials in a recent hearing in Dortmund. He admitted that he had helped his brother traffic various substances through the Dream darkweb marketplace using the pseudonym “GermanTeam.” The younger brother explained that the operation was far less complex than the prosecution had told the court. “The whole thing was not rocket science,” the 45-year-old said. He explained that the operation required simple market research: it took less than a week of research to discover that potent opioids would be there most profitable substance they could sell. He explained that it also took less than a week to find reputable chemical suppliers in China. And then, he said, it was only a matter of ordering the chemicals, preparing them for resale, and then shipping them to customers. He said they had roughly 700 customers on the Dream darkweb market.
The only reason the younger brother had involved himself in the drug trade was to ensure financial stability after he lost his legal employment, he told the court. He also expressed his feelings concerning the death of the teenager from Norway. He said he was “concerned and speechless” knowing his drugs had killed someone. The man also pointed out that he had written extensive warnings about the drugs on the Dream market “About” page. The third conspirator, according to the prosecutor, was initially hired for this purpose; the court heard that the third suspect had presented himself as an experienced chemist to the brothers and offered to write harm reduction guides in exchange for payment. Over time, the third alleged conspirator took on more responsibility by explaining how the brothers would make more money if they let him help with the production of some of the substances.
According to the court, the younger brother’s cooperation dropped his maximum possible sentence down to four years and nine months. The older brother, though, still faces a maximum sentence of seven years. The third suspect’s maximum sentence has not been revealed at the time this news was released. Although the prosecution made a deal with him of some sort, the younger suspect has not appeared in court to make a statement regarding his alleged involvement.
The trial will continue through November.