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World's largest illicit dark web site AlphaBay closed

The world's largest market for illicit goods on the dark web has been closed down and its alleged founder arrested.

Canadian citizen Alexandre Cazes was taken into custody in Thailand on July 5, and was found hanged in his cell eight days later in what the Canadian authorities have suggested appeared to be a suicide. The Thai authorities cooperated with enforcement agencies from the US and Canada in the operation, and there is every possibility that other suspects may be identified as the investigation proceeds.

AlphaBay inherited the mantle as the biggest online market for illegal goods after the demise of the Silk Road site, which was taken down in 2013. Like its predecessor and follow-up Silk Road 2.0, AlphaBay offered a wide range of illegal goods – drugs, firearms and credit card numbers, as well as counterfeit identity cards and other fakes – to users who would visit the site using the anonymity-preserving Tor web browser. Estimates of its daily turnover are in the $600,000 to $800,000 range.

On July 5 it was reported that the site was down – prompting speculation that its operators may have run off with the bitcoins held by customers (an 'exit scam') like the individuals running the Evolution marketplace in 2015. The site's Canada-based servers were taken offline by law enforcement on that day, and it remains to be seen where the money has gone. Speculation that other principal AlphaBay actors have absconded with the cash is doing the rounds.

It is reported that other sites on the dark web such as Hansa and Dream Market are now experiencing a massive increase in visits from new users in the wake of AlphaBay's demise, and have had to block new registrations.

Meanwhile, the value of bitcoins is on the slide in the wake of the AlphaBay takedown. From a value of more than $2,600 on July 4, the cryptocurrency is currently below $2,100 per coin, a near 20 per cent decline.


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