The Silk Road website which specialized in selling illegal drugs online was shutdown on Wednesday. Its owner Ross William Ulbricht, nicknamed Dread Pirate Roberts was arrested by the FBI and taken into custody.
The site sold all types of recreational and class-A drugs from marijuana to cocaine using a virtual currency called Bitcoin. The police say they seized around $3.5 million worth of bitcoins. Christopher Tarbell from the FBI said in a criminal complaint:
“The Silk Road website has served as a sprawling black market bazaar where illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services have been regularly bought and sold by the site’s users.”
Silk Road didn’t only sell drugs, they also dabbled in the sale of software tools for hackers that log keystrokes and steal passwords. It was even alleged by the FBI that the head of the operation, Ulbricht, attempted to hire a hitman to kill a Silk Road user who had threatened him.
Agent Tarbell said about the accused man: “The defendant deliberately set out to establish an online criminal marketplace outside the reach of law enforcement and government regulation.”
So how did Ulbricht avoid the Silk Road shut down for so long? He used a Tor computer network which made it impossible for the police to trace and locate computers used to buy products from the site.
The Silk Road operation was a sophisticated one incorporating a “tumbler” feature to their bitcoin currency to avoid any digital tracing of its users:
“Silk Road has emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the internet today,” the criminal complaint said, continuing:
“The site has sought to make conducting illegal transactions as easy and frictionless as shopping online at mainstream e-commerce websites.”
At its peak the site had more than 100,000 customers and laundered hundreds of millions of drug dollars. The site took commissions of between eight and 15% making over $80 million in profit.
What do you think about the Silk Road shut down? Do you think it will just make people buy drugs from the street and encourage illegal dealing? And what questions does it raise about the legalization of drugs? Sound off in the feed below.