A now deceased 25-year-old man who obtained Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship in February 2017 is alleged to have masterminded the largest criminal marketplace on the Internet, AlphaBay.
Alexandre Cazes, who with his wife obtained citizenship through the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), allegedly ran the dark website which the US Department of Justice (DOJ) says was used to sell deadly illegal drugs, stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals throughout the world.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions hailed the move to shut AlphaBay as the largest darknet shut down in history, and the DOJ is now turning part of its attention to seizing Cazes’ property, including Villa 302 at Nonsuch Bay Condominiums in St Phillip’s South, Antigua which he purchased under the CIP.
On page seven of a Verified Complaint for Forfeiture in Rem filed in US District Court in the Eastern District of California, US attorneys allege that Cazes’ purchase of “real properties” in Antigua & Barbuda and in other countries were part of several “money laundering transactions.”
Top officials, including Sessions, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Europol Executive Director Robert Mark Wainwright, heralded the action as a message to criminals everywhere.
“This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of this entire year,” Sessions said. “Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a challenge from criminal and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crime with impunity by going dark. This case says, ‘You are not safe. You cannot hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network, and we will prosecute you.'” According to McCabe, AlphaBay was ten times the size of Silk Road, a previous massive Dark Web marketplace that DOJ busted in 2013.
When asked for comment, Prime Minister Gaston Browne told OBSEVRER media, “I would suggest you get into contact with the CIP unit. I was told that the person passed through US and JRCC due diligence.”
When contacted, Managing Director of Nonsuch Development Company Limited, Cameron Fraser, said the development was “tragic” and that it came as a “shock” learning Cazes was “not only accused but has taken his own life.”
Fraser told OBSERVER media, “We acted on the information available, and at the time the information provided to us by reputable due diligence providers was that the man was not of interest to any authorities.”
In regard to the claim for forfeiture of Cazes’ Nonsuch Bay property, Fraser only said that his company would be “guided by the findings of a court and instructions issued to us by the registrar of lands.”
The Verified Complaint for Forfeiture in Rem was dated July 19, 2017 and submitted by Assistant US attorney Kevin C Khasigin.
AlphaBay operated on the dark net. “Darknet”, “dark net”, and “dark web” are all terms used to mean networks that are not detectable on the regular public Internet. If one were to search for the website using google or another popular search engine, it would not appear in the results.
AlphaBay operated as a hidden service on the “Tor” software. Tor is free software for enabling anonymous communication by directing Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network of more than 7,000 relays. This conceals user’s location.
AlphaBay also utilsed cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Monero and Ethereum in order to hide the locations of its underlying servers and the identities of its administrators, moderators, and users.
The DoJ reported that on July 5, Cazes was arrested in Thailand by Thai authorities on behalf of the US for his role as the creator and administrator of AlphaBay, but on July 12, Cazes took his own life while in custody in Thailand.
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