More than three years after the original Silkroad dark net marketplace was taken down together with its founder Ross William Ulbricht, the online drug hub is still making the news.
Recently, the extradition of two cyber criminals who were key members of the Italian Mafia Brussels (IMB) has been given the go-ahead by Romanian authorities.
Italian Mafia Brussels was a dark web vendor that dealt in the selling of drugs through Silkroad and Silkroad 2.0.
The majority of the drugs they sold were MDMA and ecstasy.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.
The IMB was taken down through a joint international police operation.
The two key members of the organization, Filip Simion, and Leonardo Cristea were arrested by the police back in May 2016 during simultaneous early morning raids in Bucharest, Romania.
Filip and Leonardo are two among the six members of the Italian Mafia Brussels who have been arrested this year.
This collaboration between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Europol was carried out in the United States, France, Belgium, and Romania.
The operation also led to the arrest of Ymran Djavatkhanov and Andy Nestor, who were suspected to be members of the illegal dark net organization and have been named in the US indictment.
Filip Simon and Leonardo Cristea are currently awaiting trial in the United States.
They will be tried for money laundering and illegal importation of controlled substances.
If they are indeed found guilty, they may face a maximum sentence of 20 years.
On the other hand, Ymran Djavatkhanov and Andy Nestor will be tried in Belgium because the US is not going to pursue their extradition.
The IMB operated storefronts on several dark web platforms including the Silkroad and Silkroad 2.0 where bitcoin was the means of payment.
To avoid online surveillance, they employed some encrypted communication services such as WhatsApp, RedPhone, and Signal while using marketplaces on the Tor network.
According to the US Department of Justice, the investigation of the Italian Mafia Brussels and its relationship to Silkroad began in 2013 after a package containing MDMA was caught by the authorities.
The package was bound for Colorado from Belgium and contained more than 60 grams of MDMA.
The recipient of the package stated that they had bought the drugs from Italian Mafia Brussels.
A number of businesses also complained about receiving returned packages from the United States.
The businesses claimed that they had not sent the said packages.
The IMB operated by sending packages to their Silkroad and Silkroad 2.0 customers mostly in the United States and Canada.
These packages were made to look like they were sent from legal businesses.
The organization carefully chose businesses that dealt with products that were somewhat similar to the drugs.
From February to September 2014, the authorities in Belgium confiscated a number of packages from the organization.
These packages contained invoices similar to those of a legitimate company.
The investigations following these discoveries including the Silkroad investigations were vital in the tracking and subsequent arrest of Fillip Simion and his fellow group members.
Simion was tracked physically by the Romanian Federal Police and the Belgian Federal Judicial Police.
The information was uncovered in 2013 and 2014 after Silkroad and Silkroad 2.0 were shut down; this incident also shed light on the operations of IMB.
The recent spate of arrests and convictions related to the Silkroad and Silkroad 2.0 dark net markets can largely be attributed to the cooperation between international law enforcement agencies.
While these arrests are taking place, Silkroad and Silkroad 2.0 became defunct, and this is a great step against illegal underground operations, but they have done little to stop the online drug dealing operations.
According to recent surveys, dark net markets have steadily increased their customer base despite the revamped crackdown on illegal platforms by law enforcement agencies.
Due to the convenience of the dark net markets such as Silkroad, more people are using these platforms to gain access to drugs and other illegal products or services.