The Canadian man found hanged in a Bangkok jail cell this week was a suspected co-founder of AlphaBay, one of the world’s largest “dark web” marketplaces, which was shut down the day he was arrested.
Alexandre Cazes was at the center of an FBI investigation into the multi-billion-dollar market for illicit drugs, firearms and pirated personal data, US law enforcement officials said.
Cazes, 26, originally from Trois Rivieres, Quebec, was found dead in his cell at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) on Wednesday, only an hour before he was to meet with prosecutors handling his extradition to the United States.
Police seized several million dollars, four Lamborghini cars, and three properties when Cazes was arrested at his home on Phutthamonthon Sai 3 in Thawi Watthana district on July 5. The same day, AlphaBay went offline, prompting rumors that its administrators had run off with customers’ money.
But the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that a law enforcement operation spanning three countries had shut down the site, with Canadian police seizing its servers in Quebec.
AlphaBay’s closure has reportedly thrown the online drug trade into chaos.
The site, believed to have been created in 2014, was estimated to have had listings of almost 300,000 items of contraband that brought revenue of between US$600,000 and $800,000 a day, earning its operators millions of dollars in commissions each year, Wired magazine reported.
Cazes, according to Canadian media reports, had lived in Thailand for eight years as a computer specialist. A preliminary assessment placed his wealth at about $15 million.
The day Cazes was arrested in Thailand, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police executed search warrants at his mother’s home and a storage site in Trois-Rivieres. The same day, the AlphaBay site disappeared.
AlphaBay was said to be the largest illicit marketplace to emerge on the dark web since Silk Road, which operated from 2011 until US authorities shut it down in October 2013.
Details around the AlphaBay take down remain murky, according to Wired. It said that posts on dark web forums and Reddit discussion pages devoted to illicit markets indicated that many users had migrated to Hansa, which has more than 24,000 drug listings.
But by Thursday, Hansa had closed its doors to new business. “Due to the influx of AlphaBay refugees we are dealing with technical issues,” read a message on the site. “We have set a stop on new registrations until further notice.”
Local authorities say all evidence surrounding the death of Caze pointed to suicide.
An initial examination of the body, together with witness statements, found “no clues that suggest he didn’t hang himself”, said Pol Maj Gen Sunthon Chalermkiat, a commander attached to the NSB.
Canadian Alexander Cazes, found dead in his cell in the NSB holding area, was wanted in the United States for drug trafficking and had lived high on the hog in Thailand for eight years. (File photo)
All evidence surrounding the death of a Canadian drug suspect found hanged in his cell Wednesday morning points to suicide, police claim.
An initial examination of the body of Alexander Cazes, together with witness statements, found “no clues that suggest he didn’t hang himself”, commander attached to Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) Pol Maj Gen Sunthon Chalermkiat said.
Cazes had lived well during eight years in Thailand on the lam from drug trafficking charges in the United States.
Pol Maj Gen Chayapoj Hasunha, chief of the NSB’s intelligence section, said Cazes had worked as a computer programmer and had a Thai wife.
The Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on June 30 at the request of US authorities. Cazes was arrested at the Private House estate on Buddha Monthon Sai 3 Road in Thawi Watthana district.
When he was arrested on July 5, police impounded four luxury Lamborghini cars registered in his name and papers for three houses. Together, the property was worth about 400 million baht.
Investigations are under way to find other assets.
US authorities, who asked Thai police to arrest the 26-year-old so he could be deported, have raised no questions about the death, said Pol Maj Gen Sunthon.
Cazes was being detained by the NSB at their headquarters in Laksi district near the Government Complex.
Officers found him dead Wednesday morning, a few hours before a deportation hearing.
A duty officer noticed a towel hanging from the toilet door in his cell about 7am, but could not see him, police said. The officer unlocked and entered the cell and found Cazes dead in the toilet.
The duty officer and a female suspect detained in the opposite cell both said they saw nothing suspicious.
Cazes had asked what time it was before entering the toilet to take a shower.
He was due to meet prosecutors Thursday at the court as part of the deportation proceedings, said Pol Maj Gen Surasak Khunnarong, chief of the NSB’s first unit, citing witness accounts. Surveillance camera footage of the cell showed no signs of physical assault, he said.
The towel was among his personal belongings and he was believed to have used it to hang himself so claims the thai police.