Judge Sentences Five University of Manchester Students Who Sold Millions of Dollars of Drugs on the Dark Web 356

Five students from the University of Manchester who sold more than £800,000 ($1.12 million) worth of drugs on the dark web using Bitcoin have been sentenced and jailed — the ringleader, Basil Assaf, has received 15 years and three months.  

Assaf and his accomplice James Roden were arrested at their Manchester city centre flat on the day the FBI shut down Silk Road in October 2013. Agents found laptops used to access the dark web, thousands of pounds in cash, and drugs including LSD, ecstasy, ketamine, and diazepam. The value of their sales was at least £812,000, the court heard, but their profits are likely to have grown exponentially due to the rise in the value of Bitcoin over the past few years. Prosecutors have so far been unable to trace Assaf’s Bitcoin.

Dark Web Dreams

According to reports, the men partied in the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Amsterdam before being intercepted. The group, who likened themselves to Breaking Bad’s Walter White, included undergraduates studying pharmacology, computer science, petrochemical engineering, geology, and marketing.

Throughout the trial the Manchester crown court heard how the group originally sold drugs to fellow students to fund their own habits, then expanding their operation, selling ecstasy, LSD, and ketamine across Europe, the US, Australia, and New Zealand on the now-defunct online drug marketplace Silk Road. 

At one point the group was nominated for “drug dealer of the year” on the site, leading Assaf to brag to his accomplice Jaikishen Patel:

“Nominated for shotter of the year haha on SR. Someone posted a thread and prof nominated us. TBF if they knew what we did IRL we do deserve it.”

Judge Michael Leeming

Between May 2011 and October 2013 — though 6,300 transactions with buyers across the world — the group sold 16.7kg of ecstasy worth $750,000, as well as 1.23kg of 2CB, a drug that mimics the effects of ecstasy, and 1.46kg of ketamine. Sentencing the group, Judge Michael Leeming said use of the dark web was an aggravating factor and that the harmful and dangerous class A drugs wrought misery on society.

“As intelligent men, you will each appreciate the misery that is caused and contributed to by people like you,” he said. “My duty is threefold: firstly, to protect the public from people like you. Second, to punish you, and third, to deter those who may be similarly minded to act this way in the future.” Leeming added: “These offenses are so serious that only immediate custody and sentences of some length can be considered.”

Meet the Guys

The ringleader, Basil Assaf, 26, was sentenced to 15 years and three months in prison. Family members of Assaf, a petrochemical engineering student who had no previous convictions, cried and hugged each other as he was led to the cells.

James Roden, 25, who studied computer science, and Jaikishen Patel, 26, who studied pharmacology, were both involved with the Silk Road account and the buying and supplying of drugs. Roden received a 12-year prison sentence and Patel was jailed for 11 years and two months.

Elliot Hyams, 26 — a geology student who had been at Dr Challoner’s grammar school in Amersham, Buckinghamshire with Assaf — was involved in the underworld startup but was thrown out after Assaf “lost patience” with him, according to the judge. Hyams was jailed for 11 years and three months.

Joshua Morgan, 28, who studied marketing, played the smallest role in the group — packaging the drugs for sale. He was jailed for seven years and two months.

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AccuChain Secures Investment from Vertex Partners 2458

AccuChain, Inc. today announced that it has received an investment from Vertex Partners Inc. in Tokyo, Japan. This investment will accelerate development of AccuChain’s Human Resource technology software. The funding also demonstrates Vertex Partners’ long-term vision and commitment to launch AccuChain in Japan and other countries in SE Asia. AccuChain is developing a resume validation and recruitment platform. This innovative platform will allow individuals to create their own validated resumes and enable HR departments to find the best qualified candidates.

Vertex Partners, a business development firm, reveals that there is a growing need for AccuChain in SE Asia. Junichi Yukihira, Co-founder of Vertex Partners Inc., said “It is very exciting and also significant for us to have the opportunity to participate in the AccuChain investment this time. We highly value the potential of AccuChain’s HR solutions based on AI/machine learning and blockchain technology, and as their business co-creation partner, we are now working together to develop markets in Japan and other Asian countries. We are confident that this investment will strengthen our relationship.” Hiring in SE Asia demonstrates a growing need for qualified candidates. AccuChain will reduce bad hires using validation methodologies, immutable records, matching of jobs to qualified candidates and uncovering false information.

AccuChain CEO, Tim R. Connelly adds “The Vertex Partners investment demonstrates the importance both of our organizations see in next generation HR recruitment software. The combined resources of our companies will make a positive difference in the successful launch of AccuChain in Japan and then SE Asia.” AccuChain is working to improve their hiring process, and create a new standard for applicants’ digital resumes. The technology will help reduce fraudulent resumes.

Stratis Brings Blockchain as a Service to All Businesses via Its C# Native Platform 3774

Stratis was created for a simple purpose – to provide enterprises with blockchain as a service (BaaS) solutions, designed to implement complex blockchain architecture within mainstream coding languages, used by everyday companies away from the crypto niche. It does this through cloud solutions, support for C# and .NET application building, alongside tool customization via its open source protocol. The result of this? Stratis unlocks the power of blockchain technology for mainstream businesses, and unlocks the mainstream market for the blockchain industry – two powerful combinations.

Enterprises that find themselves relying on the Stratis tool set will access a less expensive and less complex blockchain building framework. Companies no longer need to purchase and manage their own full nodes, nor do they need to build a blockchain infrastructure from scratch – something which is niche and represents a huge barrier to entry by setup cost to all but the largest of companies. Moreover, businesses in need of smart contract support will be pleased to find that Stratis supports virtual machines via Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

Stratis – Tailored with Perfection

Stratis holds several key values that make it an optimal choice for blockchain operations – decentralization, privacy, scalability, practicality, accessibility, reliability, security, and performance. To better understand this, Stratis blockchains run a number of cloud-based full nodes, so decentralization is assured. Privacy is guaranteed – through cryptographic encryption, all transactions and communications remain private. Stratis is also keen on providing an adaptable degree of scalability, achieved through the means of intuitive sidechain usage.

Companies looking to leverage the power of smart contracts must know that Stratis is the only platform providing support for C# execution, so developers can efficiently code self-enforcing programs utilising their existing development tools and existing knowledge of a rich and versatile programming language. Stratis is also working on facilitating cross-chain communication between contracts running within Stratis’ ecosystem and those deployed on the Ethereum blockchain, hence increasing their suitability for today’s interconnected world.

STRAX Swap on Binance

In September 2020, the team introduced STRAX, a more powerful protocol designed to flawlessly integrate within the platform’s existing business model. Previously-minted STRAT tokens have been swapped to STRAX tokens on a 1:1 basis via Binance. Following the shift, Stratis will introduce a series of other advanced features, such as the STRAX SideChain, Stratis InterFlux, SegWit support, cold-staking, the DeFi app library, IoT development tools, and many others.

Since STRAX is based on the proof-of-stake consensus mechanism, network participants can receive token-based rewards in exchange for staking their STRAX tokens. Stratis is well-aware of the security risks posed by hot wallet storage, so the team has decided to use cold-staking for ideal token security.

2021 – The Year for Stratis & BaaS

In Q1 2021, Stratis will launch the Unity Development Kit (allowing the integration of NFTs and decentralized identities within the gaming ecosystem), the DeFi Software Library (a catalogue of C# standardized smart contracts), the Stratis DAO (a means of funding next-gen developments via voting), the Stratis System Contracts (introducing on-chain logic and simplifying user-driven processes), and the mobile wallet featuring token support (supporting tokens issued on the Cirrus Sidechain).

In Q2 2021, Stratis will launch the Python Development Kit (allowing Python coders to build on Stratis), the IoT Development Kit (meant to introduce Stratis solutions to IoT hardware), a new version of Proof-of-Stake (boasting improved security and additional features), Stratis Oracles (a distributed means of accessing off-chain data), and Dex Mobile Support (allowing mobile trading of SRC20 tokens).

In Q4 2021, Stratis will launch Ethereum Interoperability (known as InterFlux, this will enable usage of wrapped STRAX tokens on the Ethereum chain), alongside the STO & Digital Asset Platform (providing the tools needed to manage token offerings).

Kim Dotcom’s Next-Generation Content-Monetization Service K.IM Announces Bitcoin Cash Integration 4817

Dotcom, whose website Megaupload was once the 13th most popular site on the Internet and responsible for 4% of all Internet traffic, said K.IM turns “digital files into file shops. Users can use our service to package a file that they want to sell into an encrypted container file and then they can place it anywhere on the Internet. Customers who want to access the content inside the encrypted container can make a payment using cryptocurrency like Bitcoin Cash.”

Asked why he was excited about K.IM and Bitcoin Cash in particular, Dotcom said that while Bitcoin (BTC) has been a great tool for asset storage, Bitcoin Cash is “great for payments” for services like K.IM and offers new financial opportunities for consumers, vendors and investors. Kim had the following to say about the crypto market:

“My opinion is that crypto use is on the rise and BCH is in a good position to accumulate market share. For me it’s simple: The more users you have the more value you have.”

“The winners in the crypto race will be decided by vendors and users. Focus on the fundamental question: What do vendors and users want? Low fees, fast transactions, high security and ease of use.”

He went on to say that Bitcoin Cash was currently “undervalued” and that the “upside potential for those who missed the BTC train” is enormous. Bitcoin.com Founder and friend of Dotcom, Roger Ver, said that Dotcom has “always been ahead of the rest of the market and that people should pay attention to his predictions.” He went on further to say:

“When you look at interest in BTC these days, a lot of it comes in trying to chase its historic investment gains. As long as the price keeps going up, there is going to be a lot of interest. But what happens when people want to start actually using it to pay for things? They will discover the limitations of Bitcoin and look for an asset that can be both an investment and a true peer-to-peer payment system like Bitcoin was originally meant to be. That’s what Bitcoin Cash is.”

SwiftPass and Wallyt to Partner with Findora on Payments Network 5867

Findora announced today that the company will integrate their solutions with SwiftPass, a leading mobile payments service provider in Asia, and Wallyt, a Hong Kong based Fintech that provides international mobile payments and open banking solutions. Findora is a blockchain network that leverages zero-knowledge proof technology to ensure privacy for financial transactions while remaining auditable. Findora supports confidential transaction processing, verification and asset issuance for any cryptocurrency or financial asset, such as equities, derivatives, debt and cash.

“Among its peers, Findora has a unique approach to financial systems, with a balance between transparency and privacy for building a large-scale transaction network. We are excited to partner with Findora and, together, provide more Fintech solutions,” said CEO of Wallyt, Tong Liu.

Wallyt’s global presence and SwiftPass’ expansive platform and user base are ideally suited for Findora’s confidential ledger. The use of Findora is expected to provide enhanced data safety and privacy for the financial institutions and other clients they serve.

“Findora Development Foundation is excited to partner with two dynamic platforms in Wallyt and SwiftPass, in the constantly evolving Fintech and payments sector. The Findora blockchain’s unique approach to combining cryptography and blockchain will help Wallyt and SwiftPass achieve both confidentiality and auditability,” said F.I.R.S.T. Director of Findora Foundation, Paul Sherer.

MEG Announces Purchase Agreement for 2,000 Units of D1, BYD’s Custom Electric Ride-hailing Vehicle 6830

Ideanomics (NASDAQ: IDEX) (“Ideanomics” or the “Company”) announces that its Mobile Energy Global (“MEG”) and its contracting entity Qingdao Chengyang Medici have signed an agreement with Meihao Chuxing, a joint venture between BYD and Didi, to purchase an initial 2,000 units of model BYD D1. The ride-hailing vehicles are intended for deployment in multiple cities within China, with deliveries expected to begin in H1 2021.

“The D1 is a very thoughtfully designed ride-hailing EV and is a culmination of the latest design and technology to bring drivers and their customers an enjoyable travel experience. We are very pleased to work with Meihao Chuxing and BYD to promote the sales of the D1,” said Alf Poor, Ideanomics CEO. “Supported by a viable government subsidy program, the proliferation of EVs in China is a testament to the value that public and private partnerships can bring to large scale global challenges. We look forward to developing these types of partnerships and the rollout of more innovative vehicles like the D1 to our taxi and ride-hailing customers.”

Meihao Chuxing (Hangzhou) Automobile Technology Co., Ltd. was established in 2019, though a 65/35 joint venture between BYD and Didi with BYD having controlling interest. Launched in November 2020, model BYD D1 was jointly developed by BYD and Didi as the world’s first custom-built, all electric car for ride-hailing. The vehicles feature L2 Assisted Driving system, are linked with a fleet management system that helps large fleet operators track and optimize operational status, real-time energy management, as well as a myriad of other safety and comfort features. BYD D1 is equipped with its latest Blade Battery (LFP chemistry) with a range of 418 km (260 miles) and can reach top speeds of 130 km/h (81 mph). Didi Chuxing is deploying and promoting the ride-hailing service in a number of Chinese cities. Passengers can order the customized ride-sharing service via the Didi app.

Future FinTech Enters Into Indonesia Market, and Signs Share Exchange Agreement to Acquire Asiasens Investment Holding Pte. Ltd. 9029

Future FinTech Group Inc. (NASDAQ: FTFT) (“Future FinTech”, “FTFT” or “the Company”), a leading blockchain based e-commerce company and a service provider for financial technology, announced today that it has entered into an Share Exchange Agreement (the “Agreement”) with Asen Maneuvre Group Limited, a limited company organized under the laws of British Virgin Islands (the “Seller”) to acquire 70.59% of the equity interest of Asiasens Investment Holding Pte. Ltd., a company incorporated under the laws of Singapore (“Asiasens”).

Asiasens owns 85% equity interest of PT. Sens Tekonlogi Indonesia, an Indonesian company (“STI”) which holds a Financial Service Authority (Otoritas Jasa Keuangan “OJK”) license in Indonesia, and it also controls PT Permata Techno Indonesia, an Indonesian company (“PTI”) through variable interest entity (“VIE”) structure but will change it to 100% equity ownership of PTI before the closing of this transaction. PTI engages e-commerce business in Indonesia.

Pursuant to the Agreement, the Company, through its wholly owned subsidiary Future FinTech (Hong Kong) Limited is acquiring 70.59% of the equity interest of Asiasens by using 2,160,000 shares of common stock of the Company ( the “Company Shares”). The Company Shares will be issued according to the achievement of certain Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (“EBIT”) goals by Asiasens in 2021 and 2022.

More complete information of the terms of the Agreement is set forth in the Form 8-K and its exhibit filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on December 18, 2020.

Mr. Shanchun Huang, Chief Executive Officer of the Company, commented: “Asiasens team has extensive experience in financial technology and business development in Indonesia and we are excited to be able to enter into consumer financial and e-commerce business in Indonesia through this acquisition. Asisens has established close cooperative relationships with major e-commerce companies in Indonesia. With a population of 260 million in Indonesia, we believe the acquisition of Asiasens is a key step for our business development in Indonesia and Southeast Asia markets.”

Mr. Xujun Ji, Chairman of Asiasens, said: “Relying on mobile Internet, big data and intelligent cloud computing, Asiasens has forged its core competitiveness in terms of customer acquisition, operation, and funding channels, making its products and services have a good user experience and very high user stickiness. The share exchange agreement with FTFT will definitely bring Asiasens to a higher level in terms of business and philosophy. I believe that the challenger banking and payment fields which FTFT is developing will form a cooperation advantage with our consumer finance business. We will continue to enrich product features to bring users better and more comprehensive financial services experience.”