Hanged man was 'dark web' kingpin

Hanged man was 'dark web' kingpin

The Canadian man found hanged in a Bangkok jail cell this week was a suspected co-founder of AlphaBay, one of the world's largest "dark web" marketplaces, which was shut down the day he was arrested.

Alexandre Cazes was at the centre of an FBI investigation into the multi-billion-dollar market for illicit drugs, firearms and pirated personal data, US law enforcement officials said.

Cazes, 26, originally from Trois Rivieres, Quebec, was found dead in his cell at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) on Wednesday, only an hour before he was to meet with prosecutors handling his extradition to the United States.

Police seized several million dollars, four Lamborghini cars and three properties when Cazes was arrested at his home on Phutthamonthon Sai 3 in Thawi Watthana district on July 5. The same day, AlphaBay went offline, prompting rumours that its administrators had run off with customers' money.

But the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that a law enforcement operation spanning three countries had shut down the site, with Canadian police seizing its servers in Quebec.

AlphaBay's closure has reportedly thrown the online drug trade into chaos.

The site, believed to have been created in 2014, was estimated to have had listings of almost 300,000 items of contraband that brought revenue of between US$600,000 and $800,000 a day, earning its operators millions of dollars in commissions each year, Wired magazine reported.

Cazes, according to Canadian media reports, had lived in Thailand for eight years as a computer specialist. A preliminary assessment placed his wealth at about $15 million.

The day Cazes was arrested in Thailand, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police executed search warrants at his mother’s home and a storage site in Trois-Rivieres. The same day, the AlphaBay site disappeared.

AlphaBay was said to be the largest illicit marketplace to emerge on the dark web since Silk Road, which operated from 2011 until US authorities shut it down in October 2013.

Details around the AlphaBay takedown remain murky, according to Wired. It said that posts on dark web forums and Reddit discussion pages devoted to illicit markets indicated that many users had migrated to Hansa, which has more than 24,000 drug listings.

But by Thursday, Hansa had closed its doors to new business. "Due to the influx of AlphaBay refugees we are dealing with technical issues," read a message on the site. "We have set a stop on new registrations until further notice."

Local authorities say all evidence surrounding the death of Caze pointed to suicide.

An initial examination of the body, together with witness statements, found “no clues that suggest he didn’t hang himself”, said Pol Maj Gen Sunthon Chalermkiat, a commander attached to the NSB.

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