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University of Manchester students jailed for online drug dealing

In yet another shocking incident related to online illegal drug trafficking, a group of four students from the University of Manchester were convicted for trading drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ketamine and ecstasy to clients from America, Australia, Europe and New Zealand through the now disbanded Silk Road. Though the net worth is estimated to be more than £800,000, the profits could be higher as the value of Bitcoin increased with time.

The group called themselves the “Breaking Bad,” gaining an inspiration from the popular TV series of the same name. The accused have been identified as Basil Assaf (26), Elliott Hyams (26), James Roden (25) and Jaikishen Patel (26) who have been handed long prison terms of 15.3 years, 11.3 years, 12 years and 11.2 years, respectively by the Manchester Crown Court. They also sold drugs offline and did more than 6,300 online transactions.

Surprisingly, young students pursuing engineering and marketing made no attempt to hide the whereabouts of their ill-gotten wealth gained through surreptitious activities. They spent lavishly on holidays in Amsterdam, Jamaica and Bahamas, which increased the suspicion of authorities as this was beyond the means of an average student living on loan or parents’ money.

The youngsters seemed to be aware of the enormity of their crime. However, in their greed for Bitcoins, they failed to take into account the consequences of their deeds. While reading out the sentence, Judge Michael Leeming said that the accused were aware of the intent and the purpose behind the operation.

Tracking down illegal practices of dark net is difficult

Silk Road provided a conducive environment for many drug dealers and cartels who wanted to operate in anonymity. It was shut down in October 2013 by the FBI. In 2015, the brain behind the website, Ross Ulbricht, was tracked down and handed a two-double time life sentence with no chances of parole for offences that ranged from money laundering to computer hacking and drug trafficking. Though he had appealed time and again, his appeals have been turned down.

Though the law enforcement authorities are keen to curb all illegal activities, they find that it is a tough task for several reasons:

  1. Various sites: The web is teeming with many such websites catering to the needs of those who desire to maintain anonymity.
  2. Many-headed hydra: The dark net is like a many-headed hydra; cut one down and another one springs in its place. For example, soon after Silk Road was taken down by the authorities, a newer version, Silk Road 2.0 sprung up in the same year and continued its operations for a year. While another marketplace AlphaBay was taken down in July 2017 by the authorities, experts warn that a newer version will soon resurface elsewhere.
  3. Difficult monitoring: Monitoring dark net activities is difficult as even fully legit sites like Reddit have vendors from the illicit marketplaces.
  4. Counterproductive aggressive measures: According to cyber security researcher Eric Jardine from the Centre for International Governance Innovation, tracking illegal activities online is difficult as the reach crosses borders and boundaries. Furthermore, it is also essential to consider the intricate link between dark nets and crypto markets like Bitcoin. Unless the investigative authorities decipher this crucial link, Jardine estimates, current initiatives would fail.

Quit drug use to stay healthy

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the formation of Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team in January 2018 to fight the menace. According to FBI spokesperson Nora Scheland, the team will focus on “disrupting the sale of drugs via the darknet and dismantling criminal enterprises that facilitate this trafficking.” However, while the government takes action, it is necessary for the public to remain vigilant as well to make sure that any activity causing threat to the community is reported immediately. Regular drug use can disrupt the usual course of life and destroy health and happiness.

If you or a loved one is facing drug-related problems and is looking for drug addiction help online chat, look no further. Being a repository of addiction treatment resources, the 24/7 Recovery Helpline can assist you with relevant information. Call our 24/7 helpline 855-441-4405 or get into drug help live chat with our trained experts to locate the finest drug rehab centers near you.

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