Dark web chaos as AlphaBay's Alexandre Cazes found dead in Thai jail
An administrator and suspected co-founder of AlphaBay, one of the world's largest dark web marketplaces that mysteriously went offline days ago, has been found dead in a Thai jail.
Alexandre Cazes, a 26-year-old Canadian, was found in a cell at Bangkok's Narcotics Suppression Bureau only an hour before he was due to meet with public prosecutors over proceedings for his extradition to the United States.
Police seized several million dollars, four Lamborghini cars and three properties when Cazes was arrested on July 5, the same day that AlphaBay went offline, prompting rumours that its administrators had run off with customers' money.
But the Wall Street Journal has reported that a law enforcement operation spanning three countries had shut down the site, with Canadian police seizing its servers in Quebec.
Acting on a US request, Thai police arrested Cazes, known to some as DeSnake, who had been living in Bangkok for seven or eight years, as AlphaBay came to dominate the sale of illegal goods online, including hardcore drugs, weapons, pornography and stolen credit cards.
AlphaBay's closure has reportedly thrown the drug web trade into chaos.
The site believed to have been created in 2014 and dubbed the "new Silk Road" was estimated to have had listings of almost 300,000 items of contraband that brought revenue of between US$600,000 (NZ$816,000) and US$800,000 a day, earning its operators millions of dollars in commissions each year.
Dark web sites like AlphaBay require a special software to find and transactions are completed in digital currencies like bitcoin. Administrators promise to protect the identities of users.
But underground forums are speculating that the US's Federal Bureau of Investigation has found a method of breaking AlphaBay's anonymity protection.
"It's frankly frightening," one user wrote in response to the site's takedown.
Thai police have not disclosed what information they have seized from Cazes' computers. He had given his occupation in Thailand as a computer programmer. He was married a Thai woman.
Police said evidence points to Cazes' death being suicide.
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- The Age