Law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Europe have closed Alphabay, the world’s largest illegal online marketplace, which was run by a Canadian expat in Bangkok.
AlphaBay had around 200,000 members and was home to more than 40,000 vendors selling drugs, guns, hacking tools, scams and counterfeit goods.
The site was operated by Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian expat who lived in Bangkok and rose to prominence following the closure of Silk Road, another illegal online marketplace.
Cazes had been living somewhat of a luxury lifestyle in Thailand for the past eight years, where he owned three properties and four sports cars.
Cazes was arrested on July 5 and was expected to be extradited to the United States where he would have faced money laundering and drug trafficking charges.
However, he was found dead in his cell at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau headquarters in Bangkok just hours before he was due to attend an extradition hearing. Police said Cazes had hung himself.
According to officials in the U.S. Cazes began operating AlphaBay in June 2014 to facilitate the trade of drugs, weapons and even toxic chemicals. AlphaBay would then take a percentage of any sales, which earned Cazes tens of millions of dollars.
Documents released by the U.S. Department of Justice claimed Cazes had amassed a fortune of USD 23 million or THB 771 million.
Police also seized a Lamborghini sports car, a Porsche, a Mini Cooper and a BMW motorcycle, as well as three properties in Thailand, with an estimated combined value of THB 400 million. Police also found documents of a network of bank accounts across Switzerland, Thailand, Antigua and Cyprus.
Police said Cazes had also gained citizenship from Antigua and was planning to the do the same in Cyprus after making significant investments in real estate there.
Police said when they arrested Cazes he was using an unlocked and unencrypted computer which was logged into an administrator’s account on AlphaBay, meaning they were easily able to gain access to a wealth of information on how the site operated.
Police also said they were able to track Cazes down via his Hotmail email address ‘[email protected]’, which was also the address linked to his account on the AlphaBay.
On Thursday, U.S and European police revealed they had closed AlphaBay and Hansa, a similar site which also operated on the Dark Web, a hidden corner of the internet often associate with illegal activity.
“This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year taking down the largest dark net marketplace in history,” said Sessions. “The dark net is not a place to hide. We will find you,” said Jeff Sessions, US attorney general.
“We know of several Americans who were killed by drugs on AlphaBay.”
“One victim was just 18 years old when in February she overdosed on a powerful synthetic opioid which she had bought on AlphaBay.”
“The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today,” said Rob Wainwright, Europol’s chief executive.