South Korean police have made 312 arrests in a crackdown on crypto-powered drug trafficking. The arrests were carried out by the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s Drug Crime Investigation, according to broadcaster KBS. The suspects have been charged with violating the Narcotics Control Act and are believed to have bought or sold drugs using dark web portals. They are said to have used chat apps like Telegram and conducted trades using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
The police have identified at least six alleged “large-scale” drug dealers among the arrested individuals. One of them, a man in his 20s, also operated an “internet shopping mall.” The suspected dealers are thought to have smuggled drugs into the country from overseas or bought them from South Korean smugglers. The police claim that these suspects have been active from December 2020 to March 2023.
It is believed that the operator of the “internet shopping mall” played a key role in expanding the drug trade on the dark web. Additionally, some individuals were charged with growing marijuana at home and selling it online or to neighbors.
Most of the traffickers reportedly used “dead drop” methods to distribute and buy narcotics, where buyers paid upfront using cryptocurrencies and dealers left bags of drugs hidden in public places for pickup. Telegram was used by dealers to inform buyers of where to pick up the drugs once they had left the area.
However, not all of the suspects were directly involved in crypto-related drug trading. An office worker in his 40s, for example, approached a licensed hemp plantation operator asking for cannabis to help treat a sick child. The plantation operator believed the story and provided cannabis for free, but it was later discovered that the office worker had been smoking the donated cannabis himself.
Police have expressed concern about the blurring line between drug dealers and buyers as drug distribution continues to spread. They have invested in blockchain analytics software to help identify crypto-powered drug trade networks. Last year, the National Police Agency’s drugs task force charged 533 people with using cryptocurrencies to buy or sell narcotics. Despite these efforts, crypto-powered drug crime is still on the rise, as evidenced by recent cases involving teenagers using crypto to purchase drugs like methamphetamine and ecstasy.