Nine dark web drug traffickers have been arrested for buying and selling narcotics on a Korean illegal dark web platform using virtual currencies. According to a report released on Sunday by the Seoul Central District Office of Public Prosecutions, the nine suspects are in custody for allegedly trading controlled substances on a hidden online trading platform on the dark web and using cryptocurrencies as the medium of exchange, both of which are known for anonymity.
A team of detectives, cyber specialists, and prosecutors apprehended the nine drug traffickers, in their 20s and 30s, including the founder and administrator of a dark web market site where trading was conducted. The owner of the online dark web marketplace, who has been operating with the username, ‘Shin,’ has been identified. The arrest has been deemed a success by prosecutors as it is the first investigation that has led to the shutdown of a Korean dark web market platform and the arrest of a Korean dark web market operator.
The prosecutors have reported that Shin allegedly operated the illegal Korean drug market on the dark web, a hidden and encrypted section of the internet only accessible through special browsing tools, such as the ‘Tor browser,’ which provides significant anonymity. The illegal online market had registered more than 635 active users between the months of March and November, and more than 50 successful wholesale drug trades were conducted. Apart from drugs, the dark web platform has also helped criminals conduct other illegal activities, including weapons trafficking and child pornography, in many countries around the world.
The nine suspects are also accused of growing cannabis to sell as well as trading psychoactive substances, MDMA, and LSD, which were procured online and shipped from different countries before being repackaged and resold. Shin, a computer scientist, has been identified as the owner, founder, and programmer of the online drug market. He is also a marijuana smoker.
The investigation leading to the arrest and the crackdown of the dark web marketplace by the prosecutors and investigating detectives was initiated after several mobile phones and computers were seized. The seizure enabled detectives to intercept the suspects’ communications and analyze information exchanged among them.
The nine suspects had been coordinating their illegal business operations with an encrypted and encoded messaging platform on the dark web to reduce chances of being tracked by law enforcement agencies. The investigating agents also found out that the dealers had been using a cryptocurrency whose transactions are significantly anonymous than those of bitcoin, to conduct their illicit business. The payment in digital coins enables users to obfuscate the transactions and hide the identity of those behind the payments.
In the investigation over 100 million won ($88,700) have been recovered, which the prosecutors have requested to preserve, insisting that the money was generated in the illegal dark web drug business and hence are proceeds of crime. According to the prosecutors, the illegal drug ring is believed to have traded and trafficked drugs and weapons worth between 8 million to 10 million won from March to November this year.