The police in South Korea are intensifying their efforts against drug trafficking funded by cryptocurrency, leading to 312 apprehensions in a comprehensive drug raid.
KBS, a broadcasting network, stated that the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s Drug Crime Investigation was responsible for these arrests.
Those arrested are accused of contravening the Narcotics Control Act.
Authorities believe the accused purchased or peddled drugs via the dark web.
It’s suspected that they used international messaging platforms like Telegram and carried out transactions with cryptocurrencies, notably Bitcoin (BTC).
Furthermore, among those detained, at least six are believed to be major drug traffickers.
A young man in his twenties, who also operated an “online shopping platform,” was among those apprehended.
The accused dealers are believed to have either imported drugs from foreign sources or acquired them from local smugglers within South Korea.
According to law enforcement, these alleged dealers were operational from December 2020 until March 2023.
The operator of the “online shopping platform” is considered to have played a significant role. Initially selling regular items, it’s believed he expanded his business to distribute drugs via the dark web.
Additionally, some individuals face charges related to cultivating marijuana domestically and subsequently selling it either online or directly to “local acquaintances.”
Of the six primary suspects, only one reportedly had prior drug-related offenses on their record.
As reported by Yonhap News Agency on July 18, 2023: “S. Korea, Thailand confiscate illicit drugs sufficient for over 2 million individuals.
South Korean Police in Crypto-powered Drug Trading Crackdown
Authorities indicated that a majority of the traffickers employed “dead drop” techniques for narcotics distribution and procurement.
The system typically worked as follows: Buyers would prepay using BTC or other altcoins. Subsequently, dealers would conceal drug packages in public spaces, like the entrances to apartment buildings.
After securing the drugs in the designated spot, dealers would use Telegram to inform buyers of the drop location, ensuring they had vacated the area before the pickup.
However, not all apprehended individuals were tied directly to the crypto-driven drug market.
One such individual was a 40-year-old office employee. He reportedly reached out to a licensed hemp farmer, requesting cannabis under the pretext of needing it for his ailing child’s treatment.
The farmer, moved by the story, provided the cannabis out of compassion.
However, subsequent investigations revealed the office worker had fabricated this story. He had been using the given cannabis personally without incurring any cost.
A representative from the police department remarked:
“With the expansion of drug trafficking, distinguishing between dealers and consumers is becoming increasingly challenging.”
In a bid to identify and curb crypto-driven drug transactions, law enforcement agencies have significantly boosted their investments in blockchain analysis tools.
Last year alone, the National Police Agency’s drug task force brought charges against 533 individuals for their alleged involvement in narcotics transactions using BTC or other altcoins.
However, the challenge of cryptocurrency-enabled drug offenses persists and even intensifies.
Highlighting the gravity of the situation, in March, a 14-year-old girl was detained on suspicions of purchasing methamphetamine, commonly known as crystal meth, using cryptocurrency.