Alexandre Cazes, a native of Quebec and the alleged mastermind behind the now-closed AlphaBay.com market website, was found hanged inside a cell at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) on July 12, seven days after he and his Thai wife, Sunisa Thapsuwan, were arrested at one of their homes in Bangkok’s Thawi Watthana district.
Deputy police chief Chalermkiat Sriworakhan told a news briefing at the NSB yesterday (July 24) that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had sought cooperation from several Thai agencies, including the NSB and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), in their efforts to apprehend Cazes, 26.
The local investigation formed a part of what was called Operation Bayonet, jointly carried out by authorities from the United States, Canada, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Lithuania and Thailand.
Most of the countries were involved because Cazes and his wife had assets there, including bank accounts and property. For example, Cazes was in the process of purchasing “economic citizenship” in Cyprus by purchase of a home worth more than B3 million (B116.76mn).
Cazes was believed to have run the website to trade and distribute illegal items worldwide. He used Thailand as his home and the centre for his online operation, Gen Chalermkiat said.
Cazes was wanted on 16 charges by the US, including the sale of controlled substances.
The US warrants were sent to Thailand to seek his arrest and extradition, he said.
Thai police investigators found out that Cazes had married Ms Sunisa and stayed in a housing estate on Phutthamonthon Sai 3 Rd in tambon Sala Thammasop, he said.
Police found several luxury cars at the house, where the couple enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle but did not appear to have any permanent jobs, Gen Chalermkiat said.
Cazes was allegedly involved in numerous package deliveries and money transactions, paying tens of millions of baht each time online, the officer said, adding the Canadian also gave huge amounts of money to his wife for spending.
For example, of 11 commercial bank accounts held by the couple, four were exclusively in the name of Ms Sunisa. She also was the sole owner of a Bitcoin account in Nonthaburi.
Police later sought the Criminal Court’s approval for warrants for the arrest of the couple with Cazes wanted for extradition and his wife for conspiracy in money laundering.
A group of US officials then travelled to Thailand to work with local officials and hatch a plan to apprehend the couple.
Anti-drug agents cleaned out and seized all the cash they could find from the Cazes couple (including wallets and purse) including from their homes. Most came from 11 commercial bank accounts and two Bitcoin accounts – four held exclusively by Ms Sunisa. The Cazes were subsequently arrested at one of their houses on July 5, where several computers were seized. At the time of the surprise raid, Cazes’ personal laptop was logged onto AlphaBay, allowing agents to seize a large amount of information including names and passwords of Cazes and his site administrators – none of whom are believed to be Thai or in Thailand.
Officials later widened the probe and seized assets, including four houses, three luxury cars – a Lamborghini, a Porsche and Ms Sunisa’s Mini – a BMW motorcycle and money in digital currency, worth B255mn, as well as Lithuanian currency worth B54.6mn.
The digital currency included Bitcoins, Ethereum, Monero and ZCash. Users of AlphaBay were expected to pay for goods in cryptocurrency, and Cazes, as site owner, took a commission of every sale and trade – similar to eBay but involving only illegal goods.
Around B46mn were seized from Cazes’ Thai bank accounts, bringing the total worth of his seized assets to B726.3mn.
With the efforts to extradite Cazes under way, the suspect allegedly hanged himself with a towel in his NSB holding cell on July 12.
Lt Gen Sommai Kongwisaisuk, chief of the NSB, said Police General Hospital’s Institute of Forensic Medicine had confirmed Cazes hanged himself as there was no trace of physical injury on his body.
He affirmed the probe into the case would not be deterred by the death of the suspect.
Authorities now expect the total worth of his assets and property to reach at least B10bn and were looking for more of his wealth.
Lt Gen Sommai said the suspect, who had an IQ of 140, was computer savvy, and started hacking websites when he was only 14.
Ms Sunisa is so far the only Thai person linked to the illicit network, but the investigation is being widened, he said.
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