Darknet Bust Leads to Portugal’s First Bitcoin Seizure
In Atouguia da Baleia, a judge sentenced a couple from Poland to prison for selling narcotics on the darknet. The husband received a seven year prison sentence and the wife received a sentence of only five and a half years. The Judicial Police seized the couple’s cryptocurrency earnings and, in doing so, made the first Bitcoin seizure in Portugal.
Grezegorz, the 40-year-old, confessed to every crime the court had accused him of committing. His wife, a 34-year-old named Sylvia, did not make a full confession but the court never needed to hear one. Grezegorz had revealed the details of the operation and included information on his wife’s involvement. They had some differences though, the court heard. Sylvia, for instance, had spent more time packing drugs and mailing packages than her husband. Grezegorz had spent more time in the lab and on the darknet than his wife. Even though the couple shared the same duties on paper, these differences made enough an impact on the court that resulted in the one and a half year gap in prison sentence lengths.
According to information revealed in court, the Judicial Police started looking into possible darknet drug traffickers in the area in early 2017. Evidence may have appeared much earlier than 2017, but at a rate that only minimally raised flags. The couple’s mistake mirrored the mistakes of some of the former vendors in Germany and Austria (and elsewhere with less media coverage). They used primarily one return address on their packages: a fake tea and coffee distributor at the address of the Portuguese headquarters of the supermarket chain Lidl.
Several potential problems arise when a vendor uses a real return address on packages of drugs. Real return addresses are a necessity in many countries. Many believe that in the United States, for instance, packages with fake addresses are more frequently inspected or seized than those coming from legitimate addresses or businesses. The problems occur when a vendor ships his or her product in a package and forgets to apply the proper postage to the product. (This specific issue became less of a concern in the United States after a majority of vendors switched to Priority Mail envelopes as a standard. “If it fits, it ships.”) But packages that require special postage or stamps based on the packages’ weight run the risk of being underpaid and returned to sender. The sender, in this case, was an unsuspecting supermarket. The other issue occurs when a vendor improperly addresses a package or a buyer provides an incorrect address. Return to sender.
Bad addresses made the majority of the couple’s problems. The supermarket started receiving unusual packages not long after the couple started selling on the darknet. Some of the packages contained airtight containers of coffee and tea, but other packages openly contained various drugs. The court noted that the couple sold LSD and other psychedelic substances.
After a number of packages had been received, the supermarket called the authorities. The Judicial Police conducted an investigation that led them to an unemployed couple from Poland. After gathering enough information (through undisclosed methods), the police raided the couple’s home in Atouguia da Baleia. They found a full drug lab and drugs throughout the house. They even found drugs in the room of the couple’s minor daughter. After the arrest, the police seized almost 14,000 euros worth of Bitcoin.
The judge herself urged both the husband and wife to appeal the sentence. The wife’s sentence almost met the cutoff for suspended sentences.