A senior police investigator named Evgenia Shishkinba was suddenly murdered by an unknown assailant in broad daylight about the time she was leaving for work. Lieutenant Colonel Shishkina daylight assassination is one of the first cases of murder that has been ordered on the Dark Web. According to the news agency and the Russian police, the assassination deal took place through the Dark Web drug trading platform called Hydra Marketplace, from where the gunman was hired. The gunman was also in charge of running an online drug store that was owned by a Russian hacker who is considered the mastermind behind the plot to kill the police official. As the police department is investigating the matter closely they have uncovered the sheer reach of the Hydra marketplace which has been very active across Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Hydra Marketplace Inception and How it Operates
The origin of the Darknet market (Hydra) can be traced to the Russian hacking underworld and since then have grown in size to be one of the largest online drug bazaars on the planet. The marketplace started its journey in 2015 as the result of an amalgamation of two forums, called “RC” and “Way Away”. The darknet market even has some presence outside Russia like Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the former the Soviet Union occupied regions. The market has an estimated 2.5 million registered accounts and around 40,000 regular customers and according to detailed research. Hydra’s 5000 shops have contributed to more than $1 billion in sales, enhanced shop profiles and shop rents. These huge numbers make the western Dark Web market look like bits and pieces.
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Hydra marketplace is a new breed of Darknet markets with lots of innovation. To buy substance on the Dark Web, one must log in via the Tor browser, having an eBay-style catalog listing a range of banned substances (brain altering chemicals), forums and customer reviews, paying via digital currencies (Cryptocurrencies). The Dark Web marketplace operates in a different way as all the activities are monitored by a central hub. Unlike in other markets where shops only have to pay once, in the case of Hydra the shops have to pay for every month. The minimum amount stands at $100 a month and rises to $1000 per month and is known as “Trusted Sellers” whose banners appear at the top of the Web Page. Trusted Sellers must have a minimum of 1000 transactions and customer disputes must not exceed 7% of the total number of orders per month.
The Dark Web marketplace has its own team of chemists who are in charge of testing new products on human guinea pigs as the medics are there on standby and give advice if there is any problem with the experiment. There is a detailed research report that is produced with all the information (graphs, analysis, and photos) that has been gathered throughout the experiment and posted on the subforum.
Kladsmen (Dropper) Way of Distributing Banned Substances to its Customers
Hydra has made the main difference by transitioning from the digital world to the real world with the help of young invincible couriers and they have made Hydra marketplace a household name. The drug dealers of Hydra are also known as “kladsmen” (“treasuremen” or “droppers”) who take the stuff and deliver to a GPS- tagged hiding spot from where the drug is being picked up by online buyers. It is a smart and tactful way of operating in a country where the postal system is slow and unreliable and dealing in streets is highly risky. Dead drops are made popular by the marketplace (Hydra) as there are many suspicious-looking characters roaming the streets and roads at any hour of the day. The location of pickup can be anywhere from the back of the apartment to an electric transformer box or even behind a tree bush.
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Once the drop is complete the buyers are notified and sent photos, coordinates along the direction where the drug is placed. On pickup from the given spot, the buyers are given 24 hours to leave a response on whether they have successfully picked up the substance along with posting a review on the website. And this business model has been successful and trade is flourishing.
One such dropper is Galina working in Moscow when she was just in her 20’s. Although the name is not real and is an alias name, as she told that, it was a financial burden (loan, debt) and lack of job that drove her to join the drug peddlers. She was a consumer of drug before joining as courier but after she lost her job she made up her mind to give it a try. Joining as a courier is not free as everyone (courier) has to pay a deposit of around 6,000 rubles ($80) to a shop via Cryptocurrency (BTC) or a Qiwi wallet. Every courier is paid according to the weight and the type of the drugs, like hash and grass, are the cheapest usually fetching around 300-400 rubles ($4-5) per gram while cocaine earnings are the highest 600-1000 ($8-14) per gram.
She started doing 10 to 20 drops in a single day but sometimes she did around 30 to 40 drops. She got her stuff from a place she calls “master drop”. A place where a stash of around 20 to 500 grams was buried deep in the woods (forest) far from Moscow. In some cases, the drop might even come at the doorstep which is convenient. In the second case where the courier has to pick up the stuff from an unknown location (master drop) and repack in which is a very tedious task in itself but the courier can decide independently the weight and no of drops. After the stuff is placed she (Galina) would send the buyer picture and the coordinates to the buyer.
The second job responsibility of any dropper is taking a picture along with writing a description and uploading the goods onto the shop website. To understand how the droppers actually operate and manage their operation, there is the book which goes by the name “Kladman’s Bible”, a 26-page guide for hydra’s couriers and is available in various Dark Web forum on Hydra. This guide dictates the droppers to use encrypted phones, map downloading tools, look neat, calm and confident so that they do not draw unwanted attention from other sources.
Russians – A Victim of The Drug Problem
According to a lawyer who has spent years studying the Dark Web forums say that it’s most of the young Russians that form the majority of Kladsman (dropper). The conviction rate is highest among young adults mostly students aged between 18-25 years. This is a lucrative opportunity as the droppers can pick up their own time and are paid handsomely. Hydra marketplace vendors also recruit its foot soldiers (droppers) across various geographic locations in order to expand the market share and create a monopoly in the business. Another part of the peddlers or couriers have to be aware of is the thieves (seekers) who steal or empty the stash after the drop has been made. It is quite common that customers complain once they find nothing at the drop location and complain to the administrator of the website.It is not only the seekers and cops the couriers have to worry about but also have to steer clear and stay away from the eyes of Russia’s violent anti-drug activist.
According to Alexander Shumilov who is a leading figure and runs a “City Without Drugs” at the group’s headquarter in Yekaterinburg told that he wants the city clean and will do whatever it takes to eradicate the menace of drug abuse that has grappled Russia in the last two decades. He said that the Hydra marketplace has changed the way drug dealing has been carried out in the country and CWG maintains a database of dropmen (Hydra marketplace) so to keep a check on them. As the Darknet marketplace operates in such a manner it makes it impossible for law enforcement agencies and vigilante groups (CWG) to trap and catch the mastermind who is actually pulling the strings from behind.
Nevertheless, while the Dark Web drug kingpins remain out of reach it does not mean that law enforcement officials can’t get into acting independently. But now the police are opening their own establishments and setting up their network of dealers. This was seen in the area called Khakassia, eastern Siberia, where a police officer accused his superior of running reigning over a drug and protection racket to an online drug store called “Killer Dealer” which specializes in synthetic drugs. The name of the police officer that worked for the Killer Dealer is Yuri Zaitsev, a 36-year-old veteran. After the incident was revealed the police officer showed all the evidence, that he ran the online drugstore as the front end to gather intelligence in a fight to stop the drug abuse in Russia. Another case was also reported in July where two police chiefs were arrested in Russia for operating an online drug ring.
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