9 nations join probe into Alphabay, the ‘darknet’ site

The late internet darkweb webmaster Alexandre Cazes and his wife Sunisa Thapsuwan enjoy a beer at a pub earlier this year. Thai investigators are focussing on Ms Sunisa, known to own three bank accounts, a Bitcoin account and a Mini Cooper, as well as joint ownership of property and currency accounts worth several hundred million baht. (Facebook photo)

The Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) chief insisted Sunday that a probe into AlphaBay, an online marketplace that authorities say traded in illegal drugs, firearms and counterfeit goods, has progressed.

The NSB said many more suspects will be arrested soon.

Pol Lt Gen Sommai Kongwisaisuk said a press briefing about the progress of the investigation will be held Monday even though a Canadian man believed to be the mastermind behind AlphaBay was found hanged inside a cell at the NSB on July 12.

Officials have said Alexandre Cazes hanged himself while in police custody just before a scheduled court hearing.

The investigation known as the “Operation Bayonet” is being carried out by authorities from nine nations – the United States, Canada, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Cypus, Lithuania and Thailand, he said.

Pol Lt Gen Sommai said the US Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation had sought cooperation from the NSB and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) to help investigate illegal drugs, firearms and other illegal goods that were traded through the site.

Many groups of offenders from various countries around the world traded through the website by using a digital currency.

Pol Lt Gen Sommai said that when Thailand was contacted by the US, it joined the Bayonet operation and found that Cazes, 26, from Trois-Rivieres, Canada, who was accused of masterminding AlphaBay, described as the world’s leading “darknet” site, lived in Thailand for six years.

Pol Lt Gen Sommai said his police team had sufficient evidence to substantiate the charges against Cazes when they arrested him earlier this month.

He said his 700-million-baht assets believed to have been acquired illegally from online trade were also seized and his Thai wife, Sunisa Thepsuwan, was also believed be involved in the operation.

“We are trying to seek more evidence to substantiate charges against his wife. We suspect she may be involved with the drug trade and money laundering,” he said.

According to NSB information, authorities have sought the forfeiture of Cazes’ properties in Bangkok and Phuket and his bank accounts. His assets include high-value cars, including a Lamborghini, a Porsche, a Mini Cooper and a motorbike. He amassed a fortune of more than 700 million baht with the creation of AlphaBay a few years ago.

Apart from the dead man’s wife, the NSB chief said police have sought further cooperation from the DEA and FBI in helping launch an additional investigation after learning many more people are implicated in the illegal online trade.

Pol Lt Gen Sommai said due to the progress of the investigation, the US Department of Justice shut down AlphaBay last Thursday.

Police in the US and Europe, including the FBI, DEA, and the Dutch National Police, partnered to close the site. The site is believed to have allowed thousands of vendors to sell illegal drugs. Europol said there were 250,000 listings on AlphaBay alone, with 200,000 members and 40,000 vendors. – Bangkok Post

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