Alleged Darknet Dealers Fight FBI Evidence in Court

Five alleged darknet drug traffickers from Germany have managed to shake the groundwork of a case built by the U.S. FBI and Europol. During the trial at the Regional Court of Aachen, the defense attorneys had a heated debate with Judge Melanie Theiner regarding the use of the FBI and Europol intel as evidence during the trial.

The lawyers successfully delayed the trial every further than it had already been delayed. The trial began in February 2018. Thanks to a BKA investigator, the case may have looked like an easy success for the prosecution. The investigator says that the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) used the FBI and Europol information to build their own case against the alleged darknet drug traffickers.

All five men have attracted attention from parties usually disconnected from darknet drug trafficking cases. All five defendants had allegedly been involved in right wing-extremist or neo-Nazi political movements. According to bnr.de, the groups included “Die Rechte,” “Syndikat 52,” an Aachen group of the “Identitarian Movement,” and the “Autonomous Nationalists.” The house where the men lived often served as a meeting place for some neo-Nazi gatherings. One of the defendants formerly performed as a guest vocalist for neo-Nazi hip-hop artist “Makss Damage.”

Even though the political backgrounds of the defendants frequently surface in the media, none of the charges included involved anything but drug trafficking and related crimes. The one exception may the inclusion of a “special issue law” in the prosecution’s files. After the 2017 raid, these political groups in the Greater Aachen area grew concerned about the federal government examining their financing and subsequently restructured, one news outlet reported. The police examined the connection between drug trafficking and neo-Nazi groups in Aachen but came up empty handed.

The defendants came from different backgrounds with similar politics. For the most part, they stood undivided politically. And due to the discovery of batons at a drug lab allegedly owned and used by the defendants, an armed drug trafficking charge was added to the list of offenses.

Prosecutors said the five men divided the labor amongst themselves when working as drug traffickers. Some manufactured drugs—almost exclusively amphetamine—and others handled the darknet side of the business. They also split this up; some handled the online shop(s) and some handled bitcoin and shipping. The FBI and Europol first noticed a darknet drug shop seemingly called “German Shop” in 2013. It operated until 2014 when other shops started appearing on the darknet with similar style and ideology. For instance, the alleged darknet vendors militarized the storefronts. The drugs, too. They sold amphetamine as “Panzerspeed.”

The BKA made a test purchase in 2016 and received their order. The dealers had shipped the drugs inside a package containing the drugs within rubber gloves. Investigators learned that the packages shipped from a post office in Aachen. Later in 2016, postal workers stopped several hundred suspected packages. The BKA matched them with the package they had received. The investigation took another turn in favor of the authorities when they learned that a shop in Aachen had an unusually high disposable glove turnover. Shop records indicated the purchases happened the day before the darknet drug shop’s listed shipping days.

The BKA also found the record of someone in Aachen who had committed a politically motivated violent crime. Law enforcement searched his house and found what the investigators called a drug laboratory. From this lab, according to information heard in the courtroom, the dealers pumped out 300,000 euros worth amphetamine and ecstasy (they also sold cannabis but unlikely synthesized it in the lab).

But if the defense attorneys can undermine the BKA’s case against their clients by preventing FBI and Europol information from being used, the alleged dealers may have a chance at freedom.