The former operator of DiDW was questioned about drugs and weapons dealing on an online portal Thursday in court. He is facing charges for operating and moderating an online dark web marketplace which trades illegal products and services. Businesses on the forum are conducted exclusively in cryptocurrencies.
The accused, Alexander U., is a former operator of “Germany in the Deep Web” (DiDW), a dark web trading platform operating under the motto “no control, everything permits!”. The online forum facilitates anonymous purchases and the sale of illegal products such as drugs and weapons as well as services such as cybercrime-as-a-service. In May 2016, a dark web assassin is said to have illegally purchased a pistol on the defendant’s platform and shot and killed about nine people at Olympia shopping center, Munich.
From the beginning of his trial before Judge Holger Radke at Karlsruhe District Court, no witnesses have appeared, but instead, the accused has been questioned about the dark web platform and his operations by the prosecutors and the presiding judge.
Filed court records indicate that the investigating detectives from the Federal Criminal Police Office had raided Alexander’s apartment in Karlsruhe on a warrant. In the apartment, they found hundreds of pills, packets of “white powder”, dried mushrooms, ecstasy tablets, amphetamines, and a computer. However, the big blow came after there was a power blackout when they were in the process of copying data from the server’s hard drive to their system which would help in further dark web investigation.
After the incident, the data on the server was encrypted, and the investigators could no longer access anything on the hard drive. On Thursday, Judge Radke asked the defendant if he remembered what was stored on the hard drive and if he was willing to volunteer access to the data. The defendant shook his head in disagreement saying what was on his computer was his private data, photos, documents, and films.
“There is a lot more I need to know about the online dark web platform,” Judge Radke moved to the next question, “Why did you consciously set up a trading platform purposely for illegal weapons and narcotics? Explain that to me.”
“My first motivation was to create a free and utterly anonymous communication platform primarily for the exchange of views on different aspects especially in this time and age,” answered the defendant. “With more and more unnecessary surveillance by the government, they have deprived us of our right to privacy,” he explained.
According to the prosecution, the defendant has always referred himself as a “crypto-anarchist” on online platforms, and the judge sought to know why he had the name. “What exactly does crypto-anarchist mean?” Judge Radke asked.
The defendant seemed to like the question. “That is because of cryptocurrencies which are gradually decentralizing the financial sector. Bitcoin among other digital coins are self-regulating depending on the forces of supply and demand, and hence anarchy in the digital financial world,” he answered.
Judge Radke listened to the crypto-anarchist theory but didn’t seem convinced, and then he asked the most critical question. “Then, why not something legal?” he asked.
Referring to his earlier explanation, Alexander said his original plan was an anonymous communication platform which is legal. “Nothing illegal was in my initial ideas. I collected controversial topics which people fear to discuss in a one on one conversation, and we could talk and learn,” he said. “But drugs, never, it has always been communication about bitcoin, narcotics, weapons, policies and not trade.”
In one of the filed affidavits the judge asked him about the certification of illegal dealers on the platforms and updates of offers. “Basically, you created and moderated a safe and anonymous trading platform for your customers,” the judge sought clarification.
“Yes, your honor,” Alexander agreed, avoiding discussion on drugs.
“Customers for illegal goods and services,” Judge Radke pressed further.
“Right,” hesitantly answered the defendant.
The trial is set to resume on a later date.