Irish Police Intercept Marijuana Purchased Using Bitcoin on Dark Web
A man who admitted attempting to buy cannabis on the dark web using bitcoin and to laundering over €26,000 in cash was handed down a suspended sentence at Kilkenny Circuit Court.
Ronan Whelan, formerly of Chapel Lane in Kilkenny City admitted the offences. Sergeant Paul Coleman gave evidence that the defendant was pleaded to three counts of money laundering in dates in 2018 and 2019 and to attempting to possess cannabis for sale or supply contrary to section 21 of The Misuse of Drugs Act.
Sgt Coleman said that on May 30, 2019 gardaí had executed a warrant at the home of the defendant in Kilkenny City. During the course of the search cash totalling €1605 was seized along with a scales, containers and bags, which were all evidence of drug dealing.
Following further investigation gardaí seized a parcel which contained approximately €2,540 worth of cannabis which was bought using bitcoin over the dark web using the ‘Tor’ browser.
In June, 2019 Sgt Coleman obtained an order allowing him access to the defendant’s bank account. During the course of the investigation the defendant’s social welfare and revenue details were also obtained.
The court heard that at the time of the offending behaviour the defendant was in receipt of social welfare and had no other legitimate source of income.
Sgt Coleman outlined to the court how in 2018 there were cash lodgements totalling €9598 and in 2019 further cash lodgements totalling €18,430.
The defendant was arrested on suspicion of money laundering and was detained at Kilkenny Garda Station. Sgt Coleman said that the defendant was ‘co-operative, frank and forthright’ with gardaí.
“He took responsibility for the money in the house and said that the vast majority of it was from drug dealing.
“He also took full responsibility for the drugs bought over the dark web which were intercepted by customs and accepted that he lodged money which was the proceeds of drug dealing and used narratives like ‘wages’ to disguise the payments,” said Sgt Coleman who added that the modus operandi used by the defendant was ‘a sophisticated method of purchasing drugs’.
Prosecuting barrister, Dylan Redmond told the court that the drugs were ordered on the dark web using the ‘Thor’ browser which ‘gives access to places not normally accessible in search engines’ and said that the paraphernalia seized during the search had ‘all the hallmarks of drug dealing’.
Sgt Coleman said the defendant had made full admissions ‘which significantly helped the investigation’ and said in interview that he was ‘getting deliveries every 10 days to two weeks’.
The court heard that the defendant has 15 previous convictions, the majority of which are for road traffic offences. A probation report was handed into the court which stated that the defendant had engaged positively with them and that he had ‘deep insight’ into the offending behaviour and was remorseful and ashamed.
Judge Patrick Meghan said that ‘the sophistication of the operation’ had to be taken into account. He imposed a three year sentence which he suspended for five years on condition that the defendant enter a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour and engage with the Probation Services.
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