Finnish Customs closed down Sipulikanava in cooperation with the Police
On 1 November 2017 Customs, in cooperation with the National Bureau of Investigation, closed down the Sipulikanava website, which was active on the Tor network. Sipulikanava was a Finnish website through which very large quantities of narcotics were sold, purchased and distributed around Finland during 2014-2017. The suspects are two Finnish individuals who are suspected of committing an aggravate narcotics offence as well as aiding and abetting in an aggravated narcotics offence. The suspected offences now under investigation involve 37 previous cases of aggravated narcotics offences that, based on the preliminary investigation, were carried out during 2016-2017 when narcotics were sold and purchased via the market section of Sipulikanava.
Customs became interested in the Sipulikanava operation and its administration in 2017, when it became apparent that a person using the pseudonym Ekstaasikauppa, who had previously been investigated, had obtained via Sipulikanava some of the narcotics sold; this after Customs had apprehended the persons behind the pseudonym Douppingkauppa in 2016. The person who used the name Ekstaasikauppa had contacted the narcotics dealer via a narcotics sales advertisement on Sipulikanava and had via an instant messaging service arranged for the delivery of the narcotics.
On 31 October-1 November 2017 in Vantaa, Customs together with the National Bureau of Investigation and the Special Investigations Unit of the Helsinki Police Department, searched the home of the persons suspected of being responsible for Sipulikanava. A large amount of technical evidence in connection with Sipulikanava and its maintenance was reproduced during the search of the home, and a small quantity of narcotics was seized.
Furthermore, the personal web server of the main suspect was seized from his workplace. The server was believed to be a backup server for Sipulikanava. The employer of the main suspect is not suspected of any criminal offence. The employer has not been aware of any activity by the suspect involving Sipulikanava.
The Sipulikanava operation 2014-2017
Sipulikanava was founded on 13 March 2014, and over the years it became one of the most significant Finnish websites engaged in narcotics trade in the Tor network. The structure of the website was a discussion forum with a lot of legitimate content. However, the person maintaining Sipulikanava had already in the beginning created a so-called market section, where narcotics were sold actively and openly. The way the website worked was that the narcotics dealer placed a sales advertisement on the website with a picture and description of the narcotic on sale, the quantity and price as well as the seller’s instant messaging ID. Furthermore, the buyer was able to place a want ad with information on which narcotics they wished to buy and provided their instant messaging ID. The instant messaging application was used in agreeing on the quantities of narcotics to be sold, and on deliveries. During 2016, the person maintaining the website edited the market place so that the narcotics advertisements were divided into different city or area based sections. This made it much easier for buyers and sellers of narcotics to meet.
In connection with the preliminary investigation, Customs has collected narcotics offences connected to Sipulikanava for 2016 and 2017 from the data system for police matters. During these years, Customs and the Police carried out several criminal investigations connected to Sipulikanava, through which large quantities of narcotics were suspected of having been distributed around Finland. A total of more than 200 criminal cases have been investigated of which 37 cases were aggravated. In connection with the suspicion of an offence regarding the maintenance of Sipulikanava, nearly six kilogrammes of amphetamine, around 12,000 ecstasy tablets, over 10 kilogrammes of marijuana, over 400 grammes of cocaine, over 500 grammes of MDMA crystals, over 200 grammes of methamphetamine and over 20,000 Rivotril tablets are suspected of being distributed via the network.
Suspected offence concerning the maintenance of Sipulikanava
The person maintaining Sipulikanava, a 45 year old IT professional, is suspected of an aggravated narcotics offence, namely distributing narcotics in the market section of Sipulikanava during 2014 - 2017. The suspicion is based on the administrator’s knowing and intentional activity in constructing the market section of the site and in developing and moderating the site, which has enabled several online trade transactions involving narcotics. The website was intentionally established on the Tor network to make it harder to identify its users or its administration. Furthermore, narcotics trade via another Finnish website (Silkkitie) on the Tor network was advertised on Sipulikanava, and users were also given instructions on how to buy narcotics. Another person is suspected of aiding and abetting in this operation. Furthermore, the administrator is suspected of having obtained narcotics for personal use via the Sipulikanava market place. In the beginning of the investigation, two other persons were suspected of aiding and abetting in the aggravated narcotics offence, but as the investigation progressed it was discovered that the individuals had not participated in the maintenance of Sipulikanava.
The case in question is the first one in Finland’s criminal history where an administrator of a website on the Tor network is suspected of distributing narcotics through the site. This criminal case is part of an ever increasing societal problem; i.e. the web based narcotics trade phenomenon. The investigation is in the final stages and the matter will be submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office of Itä-Uusimaa for consideration of charges.