South Korean Police Take Down Major Drug Ring

South Korean Drug Mules Arrested
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South Korean police have announced their successful takedown of a sophisticated drug trafficking ring. The operation ended in 48 arrests, including both drug dealers and buyers, along with over $2.2g million worth of drugs. According to the Daegu Police Agency, the gang sold drugs via the darknet and Telegram. They used cryptocurrency as their payment gateway. To deliver drugs abroad, the gang hired drug “mules” who concealed narcotics in body cavities or ingested them to evade initial detection.

Busting a Cryptocurrency-Powered Drug Trafficking Ring

On November 28th, the South Korean Daegu Police Agency released to the public how they dismantled a sophisticated criminal network that cleverly utilized cryptocurrency as its payment gateway and Darknet anonymity to conceal its illicit activities. This sweeping operation has resulted in the arrest of 48 individuals so far. The names of the criminals have not been released just yet. 

Moreover, the authorities seized a staggering haul of over $1.7 million worth of illegal drugs, effectively disrupting the organization’s supply chain and financial resources. According to the Daegu Police Agency, this successful operation highlights the growing trend of cryptocurrency adoption for international crimes. It further underscores the complex challenges faced by law enforcement agencies in combating crypto-facilitated illicit activities. Particularly those who use Darknet Markets, allowing them to operate undetected for an extended period.

Drug Trafficking Methods

Perhaps more interesting in this case was how the drugs were moved from country to country. Unlike your typical UPS box, which conceals drugs with wax molds or similar, this drug ring took a less conventional route. 

Drug Mule Example

The darknet drug ring was led by a mysterious figure identified as “A,” who operated from December 2022 to May 2023 and smuggled drugs into South Korea through various means. Particularly using different drug mules (people who transport illegal drugs for criminal organizations, typically offered a small amount of money for their services.)

The use of mules is a smart tactic, as if a mule is caught, they often face severe legal penalties, including imprisonment. Yet the leaders of the ring are not tied to the mule and won’t see imprisonment in this particular case described in the news article, “A” paid for groups of mules to smuggle the drugs into South Korea between December 2022 and May 2023. The drug mules swallowed bags of narcotics and even hid them in body cavities. This method of concealment is known as “body packing” and is extremely dangerous, as the drugs can rupture and cause death if they leak into the bloodstream.

Capturing an International Drug Ring

After a lengthy and intensive investigation, multiple of the ring mules were captured. While they were lower-ranked operatives, they eventually led South Korean police to the leader, “A”. According to the report, despite being based overseas, A was successfully tracked down by the Daegu Police Agency in collaboration with international counterparts.

Once their leader went down, the rest were simply pieces of a puzzle put together. Using seized laptops and mobiles from their leader, the Daegu Police Agency identified a total of 48 buyers and sellers. Subsequently, the police raided and found the rings stashed house.

  • A total of nearly $2.2 million in drugs
  • 586g of Philopon
  • 207g of Ketamine
  • Large amounts of synthetic marijuana
  • Stacks of Cash
  • Electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptops, and PCs used for Dark web operations.
  • In total, enough drugs to administer medication to about 27,000 people.

“We will respond strictly to drug crimes committed non-face-to-face and continue to crack down on them intensively. “

Kim Moo-geon, head of the Daegu Police Agency’s drug investigation division

There is no information on whether their crypto wallets have been found and accessed at this point. However, the operation highlights the increasing adoption of cryptocurrency in the realm of international crime syndicates and the growing intersection of digital assets, the Darknet markets, and organized crime.

South Korean Drug Market Is Growing

Over the last few months, reports of drug trafficking and arrests in South Korea have been running rampant. While Telegram seems to be the primary space for vendors in the area, many use darknet markets too.

Naturally, these drug dealers have been using cryptocurrency making it more difficult for law enforcement to track and prosecute these crimes. While drug use in the country increases, it’s directly correlated to a number of social problems, including addiction, crime, and health problems.

In response to this crisis, South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol has called for an “all-out war” on crypto-powered drug dealing. The government is working to develop new regulations and technologies to combat this problem. However, it remains to be seen whether these efforts will be successful in curbing the rise of crypto-powered drug trafficking in South Korea.