Estonian police, prosecutors bust dark web drug market
Over a period of three years, Estonia's Office of the Prosecutor General has charged 13 people who ran stores for illegal drugs on the dark web, along with a key Latvian supplier who tried to expand into several countries.
A court has convicted the managers and employees of the online "department stores" that supplied drugs to Estonia. The convictions of four people have not yet entered into force. As a result of the work of the law enforcement authorities, there are currently no large-scale dark web dealers operating in Estonia, spokespeople for the Office of the Prosecutor General said.
Since 2019, the Central Criminal Police and the Office of the Prosecutor General have conducted six criminal proceedings related to the distribution of drugs on the dark web. As a result of these proceedings, the prosecutor's office has charged 14 people.
The person charged in the last of these criminal cases, which was sent to court in October, is a 42-year-old Latvian national identified by his first name as Jevgenijs, also known on the dark web as Teslaboy and Valhalla, who had permanently resided in Spain.
According to the charges, the 42-year-old found partners in Estonia whom he instructed in the establishment of interim storage locations and supplied with narcotic substances. According to the indictment, Jevgenijs received more than €1 million in criminal proceeds.
In total, three drug stores operated in Estonia under the leadership of a Latvian citizen. They operated at different times, with each new group starting its operation after the police had ended the operation of the previous group. The operators of the stores have been convicted and their managers have been given prison sentences of eight to 13 years. The verdicts on four of the 13 convicts have not yet come into force.
The judgments that have entered into force show that the online "department store" was dealing in drugs worth nearly €200,000 a month. In searches at several locations, around 80 kilograms of drugs, cash and a starter pistol were seized from three different groups. It is estimated that more than €1 million worth of illicit substances were handled in total.
In these criminal cases, more than €400,000 worth of criminal proceeds, including bitcoins, have been confiscated by court decisions.
According to Ago Leis, head of the organized crime bureau at the Central Criminal Police, the police are constantly monitoring the Estonian drug market, doing it not only on the street, but also, increasingly, on the web.
"Drug trafficking on the dark web has become increasingly topical In recent years. Anonymity on the dark web is only apparent, and the police have the capacity to monitor and deter criminal activity on the hidden side of the internet. This is also demonstrated by the fact that, despite the concealment of the criminals, we identified all the groups and busted each new group faster than in the previous one," Leis said.
"However, the arrests of the groups alone did not bring the desired result, meaning that it didn't put an end to large-scale drug trafficking via the dark web in Estonia, which is why we continued our targeted work to identify the vendor, that is, the supplier of substances and the head of the network," he said.
Leis also described cooperation with the law enforcement authorities of other countries as extremely important in combating international organized crime.
State Prosecutor Vahur Verte said a breakthrough was achieved with the detention and arrest of Jevgenijs, after which no new dark web drug "department stores" have been registered in Estonia operating on such a large scale.
"The threat potential of this group is also illustrated by the fact that Jevgenijs has been charged with the illegal handling of firearms because he sent, together with narcotics, a firearm with ammunition to the manager of his 'department store' operating in Estonia," the state prosecutor added.
An international investigation team was set up with the help of Europol and Eurojust to conduct the investigation. In addition to Estonia, the team included Latvia and Switzerland, with the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark and Finland as observers.
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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste