Japan Makes First Bitcoin-Related Drug Arrest

Nermin Hajdarbegovic
May 9, 2014 at 14:50 UTC
Updated May 9, 2014 at 16:19 UTC

Japanese authorities have arrested a suspected drug importer who allegedly used bitcoin to pay his Mexican suppliers.

According to Channel News Asia, the case is the first of its kind in the country – an arrest for a crime involving both drugs and digital currency.

The suspect has been named as 38-year-old Ayumu Teramoto and his arrest was carried out by police forces in Tokyo and Fukuoka.

Teramoto is suspected of buying and importing illegal stimulants – terms usually used in the Japanese media to describe cocaine and methamphetamines.

Bitcoin payment

The suspect allegedly used ¥3.5m ($34,500) worth of bitcoin to pay for a drug deal involving 50g of the unnamed drug, according to CNA.

The drugs were then shipped to an airport near Tokyo, reportedly concealed inside a tablet computer. It is unclear what raised suspicions, but it is clear that police managed to identify and successfully intercept the shipment.

Police claim Teramoto used an online service to procure the drugs, but they did not reveal any details, other than the fact that the transaction was carried out in bitcoin.

Echoes of Silk Road

Silk Road was the anonymous online marketplace that became infamous for its drug dealing activities and reliance on cryptocurrency for payments. More than 30,000 bitcoins were seized following the site’s closure and the arrest of its alleged ringleader Ross Ulbricht.

However, since the Silk Road’s demise new anonymous marketplaces have sprung up to take its place, namely Silk Road 2.0, with varying levels of success. However, according to a recent report published by the Digital Citizens Alliance, the online trade in illicit drugs is bigger than ever.

Currently, Silk Road 2.0 provides 5% more listings for drugs than its predecessor at the time of the FBI bust, with over 13,000 entries.