A South Korean man was handed a host of punishments after a court found him guilty of buying narcotics online – using bitcoin (BTC).
News1 reported that the man, aged 43 but unnamed for legal reasons, was convicted by a branch of the Chuncheon District Court Criminal on charges of violating drug management laws.
The court heard that the man had bought methamphetamine (also known as crystal meth) on a total of eight occasions from August 13, 2020, to April this year. In each case, the man paid dealers in bitcoin.
The presiding judge, Song Jong-seon, handed the man a 10-month suspended jail sentence, in addition to three years of probation. The man was also ordered to attend a 40-hour drug treatment course and pay a fine of almost $2,190.
South Korea’s Crackdown on BTC-powered Drug Trading
South Korea has some of the strictest narcotics laws in the world. But – until recently – the police had found themselves outwitted by tech-savvy drug traders. Using darkweb portals, buyers have been able to find the contact details of vendors.
Then, using the Telegram messaging app, they have set up payments – all conducted in BTC and altcoins. These are then followed up with “dead-drop” deliveries, whereby dealers visit public places and leave bags of narcotics in hidden nooks and crannies.
Police officers have since spent funds on crypto monitoring tools that they believe have helped them secure multiple convictions.
In the case of the 43-year-old man, the court heard how, on one occasion this year, he contacted a drug vendor via Telegram before paying BTC 0.0143 into a digital wallet.
The next day, he followed instructions that led him to discover a bag of methamphetamine “hidden above the entrance to a building in Seoul.”
Earlier this year, police arrested more than 200 people on suspicion of trading drugs including ketamine, cannabis, and MDMA (ecstasy) using the Telegram app and bitcoin wallets.