Dark web drug-trafficking group arrested on Vancouver Island: RCMP
Police allege men used cryptocurrency, encrypted messaging to cover their tracks
Police say three men from Vancouver Island have been arrested for allegedly running a "dark web'' drug-trafficking ring in Nanaimo, B.C., following an undercover investigation that began in early 2019.
An RCMP news release Tuesday said a vendor calling itself AlwaysOverweight used cryptocurrency and encrypted messaging applications to sell drugs that included methamphetamine, oxycodone, cocaine, MDMA, Xanax and fentanyl that was advertised as heroin.
"They were being shipped through the mail system internationally, and locally distributed," said Cpl. Arash Seyed.
The RCMP's organized crime division describes the dark web as the internet's "third hidden layer,'' below the open web and deep web, and said it is accessed through special browsers that hide the digital footprint of users.
Police said they were able to penetrate the criminal group's "digital barriers'' and identified a Nanaimo, B.C., address as the vendor's physical location.
They said officers searched the building and seized a variety of drugs, packaging, mailing envelopes, documents, cash, computers and data storage devices.
Three men were arrested in February 2020. They are scheduled to appear at the Nanaimo provincial courthouse June 7, charged with trafficking and other offences.
Seyed said investigations into online, international drug sales are complex and take time to get to the stage of charges. In the Nanaimo case, that was exacerbated by pandemic-related delays.
"These are quite complicated investigations, as you can imagine ... often multi-jurisdictional, international in nature, involving a number of law enforcement agencies and other partners," he said.
With files from Kathryn Marlow