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Finnish Customs shut down dark web site over suspected drug offences

The Sipulikanava website is the largest suspected Finnish-based online drug trafficking outfit operating on the Tor network.

The Finnish site Sipulikanava was hosted on the Tor dark web network. Image: Antti Lempiäinen / Yle

Finnish customs teamed up with Finnish police to shut down the Sipulikanava website, a Finnish-based site operating on the Tor dark web network.

On Thursday, Finnish Customs announced that law enforcement organisations had shut down the site’s server last autumn, making it the biggest server shutdown in Finland.

“Of course the drug trade will always find new routes, but the overall impact has been significant,” said Finnish Customs enforcement chief Hannu Sinkkonen.

Sipulikanava’s site administrator – a 45 year-old IT professional -- is suspected of aggravated drug offences. Another individual is suspected of aiding and abetting the offences. It is the first case in Finland in which the administrator of a site hosted on the Tor dark web service is suspected of distributing drugs online.

Other websites on the Tor network that have openly traded drugs have been shut down in the past, but officials have not previously moved to take an entire server offline.

“This is the largest operation of this scale and very different from previous ones,” Sinkkonen noted.

Buyers and sellers unmasked

As part of the investigation into the online drug operation, officials were able to track down a large quantity of technical evidence relating to the site and its administration and also seized a small quantity of narcotics.

“Information about buyers and sellers was obtained in connection with shutting down the servers and it has been used, for example as evidence in the investigations involving the Sipulikanava administrator.”

Sipulikanava is essentially a discussion forum that also offers users legal content. However the administrator had created a section openly dedicated to drug trafficking. The administrator also modified the site’s operations to connect buyers and sellers of illegal drugs as easily as possible.

Finnish Customs said that the site was shut down in November 2017 after engaging in a brisk drug trade between 2014 and 2017.

The site is believed to have facilitated the buying and selling of large amounts of narcotics around the country, including several kilograms of marijuana and amphetamine as well as tens of thousands of Rivatril pills, which contain the drug Clonazepam, a medication used to treat seizures and panic disorder. The drug has a tranquilising effect.