Police launch thousands of investigations into suspected crimes on Finnish Silk Road

Police have identified 6,000 people in Finland who bought and sold illicit substances on darkweb site Silkkitie.

Silkkitie was one of the oldest and internationally best-known trade sites selling narcotics through an encrypted network, according to Finnish Customs. Image: AOP

Police have launched thousands of criminal investigations into suspected narcotics offences committed over the drug-selling dark web site Silkkitie, or Silk Road, which officials seized earlier this year.

Finnish Customs, the National Bureau of Investigation and police departments across Finland are investigating thousands of suspected offences related to the Finnish drug-selling site Silkkitie on the hidden Tor network. Silkkitie, also known as Valhalla, began selling drugs and other illicit products on the dark web in 2013.

Digital forensic investigators have been able to uncover the identities of thousands of Finnish sellers and buyers on the site.

“Customs has already identified over 6,000 people,” detective superintendent Jari Räty from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said.

Most of the suspects have no previous criminal background and come from all facets of society, according to Customs. Men make up 84 percent of suspects and women 16.

“It is an enormous investigative effort throughout the country. At the moment, most police departments are going through the material received from Finnish Customs,” Räty explained.

For several years, narcotics, doping substances, medicinal substances and weapons were brokered via Silkkitie and Valhalla. Silkkitie was one of the oldest and internationally best-known trade sites selling narcotics through an encrypted network, according to Finnish Customs.

Drugs spread to countryside

Officials said Silkkitie considerably increased the supply of narcotics in Finland, especially beyond large cities while also supplying drugs to minors as young as 15.

“The online narcotics trade has moved drugs beyond Finland’s largest cities,” Räty said, adding that the site made it possible to order drugs to one's doorstep using regular mail.

Some 400,000 pseudonyms were registered on the site which featured 78,000 different products for sale. Silkkitie concluded some 500,000 transactions, resulting in a total turnover of 50 million euros. The administrator took an average five-percent commission of the trade carried out on the website.

Some of the purchases made on Silkkitie were so large that officials suspect buyers resold the products.

“In the encrypted network buyers believed that the online trade in narcotics and other illegal products was 'safe' because of the anonymity. This myth has now been broken," said Hannu Sinkkonen, director of enforcement at Finnish Customs.

German, French, Canadian and American officials as well as Europol cooperated in the seizure of Silkkitie. Finland's Prosecution Authority has assigned a national group of 22 prosecutors to handle cases arising from the cache.

"Having specially assigned prosecutors handle the criminal matters related to Silkkitie ensures more effectively that criminal liability is imposed equally and uniformly, regardless of where in Finland an offence has been committed," specialised prosecutor Anna-Riikka Ruuth said in a statement.

The Finnish darknet site used the same name as the US-run black market Silk Road, which the FBI shut down in 2013.