Silk Road crackdown: Police bust thousands in dark web investigation

Up to six thousand people across the country are under investigation for buying items on the Silk Road dark web services.

File image of computer, cyber / Credit: iStock

Law enforcement agencies including police departments, the National Bureau of Investigation KRP and Finnish Customs Tulli have launched investigations into an estimated 6000 people who used the Silk Road Silkkitie dark web platform.

According to authorities the online market has significantly increased the drugs supply in Finland, especially to areas outside large cities, and to young people. Finnish authorities, acting together with international agencies, seized control of the Silk Road servers earlier this year.

The Silk Road service, which had a turnover of €50 million per year, gained popularity because it operates anonymously, and shoppers have been able to buy narcotics, doping substances, medicinal substances and weapons “in an internationally significant scale” say Finnish officials.

“In the encrypted network, the administrators of the services as well as the sellers have believed and have made the buyers believe that the online trade in narcotics and other illegal products is ‘safe’ because of the anonymity, and therefore inaccessible to authorities and free from criminal liability. If not earlier, this myth has now been broken, says Hannu Sinkkonen, Director of Enforcement at Finnish Customs.

Since the Silk Road servers were seized in March, and the service closed down, Customs says they have seen a decrease in the number of seizures of narcotics shipments arriving in Finland.  

File pic of computer keyboard with handcuffs and judge’s gavel / Credi: iStock

Thousands are now suspected

Even though the Silk Road servers were protected with an advanced encryption code, Customs investigators were still able to find out the identities of thousands of buyers and sellers in Finland.

Authorities are investigating the crimes in four different categories: drugs and doping offenses; drugs smuggling; firearms offenses, and tax evasion.

“It is an enormous investigative effort throughout the country. At the moment, most police departments are going through the material received from Finnish Customs and sorting the cases under investigation according to their scope and type” explains Detective Superintendent Jari Räty from the National Bureau of Investigations.

“At some departments, the investigations have moved on to questionings and other measures” he adds.

The suspects range in age from 15 to 83, and the highest number of suspected crimes were found in Central Finland and the Oulu region.

“It is also a sign of the change in the narcotics market. The rise in online trade has made the use of narcotics more common also in rural areas and small municipalities, when it is possible to order narcotics online and delivered to the door. Earlier, the narcotics trade was mainly concentrated in large cities.”

According to Helsingin Sanomat newspaper one of the suspects is a senior police officer in Helsinki Police Department, who is accused of doping offenses in connection with the Silk Road site during 2016 to 2019.