AlphaBay: The death of Alexandre Cazes

AlphaBay: The death of Alexandre Cazes

On July 5 Canadian citizen Alexandre Cazes was arrested in his private house in a gated up-market community in Bangkok, Thailand and detained by the Thai Narcotic Suppression Bureau. The arrest was preceded by an application of extradition for charges of drug trafficking by the United States. An arrest warrant was issued by the Criminal Court in Bangkok on June 30 (file number 502/5260).

Alexandre Cazes

On the same day, the leading dark web marketplace Alpha Bay went offline. (Editor’s note: reported on July 5. Read our story here.)

While many self declared dark web pundits on Reddit cried foul play, and suspected a so called exit scam, where the operator shut down the market and left with the funds controlled by the market, there was little evidence to back such a claim.

However, there have been rumours that the arrest in Thailand could somehow be related to AlphaBay!

According to Thai media, the Thai authorities seized a couple of luxurious cars, among them a Lamborghini Aventador, several million dollars and three houses.

Alexandre Cazes posing in front of his Lamborghini Aventador

It was also reported that US authorities wanted Mr Cazes to face charges for his alleged involvement in the international drug trade while he was staying in the United States. After authorities in the US had learned that Mr Cazes had fled to Thailand, the Criminal Court in Bangkok was asked for cooperation and issued the warrant for his arrest.

The confusing part of the story is that Mr Cazes lived in Thailand for at least four years. He was never staying in the United States. Even his passport was issued by the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok and he visited Canada in December last year. Embassies don’t issue passports to fugitives. So it is very doubtful that he “had fled to Thailand.”

Alexandre Cazes’ Canadian Passport

Raids in Canada

On the same day, July 5, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) executed search warrants in Montreal and Trois-Rivières, reportedly in connection with the sale of illicit goods on the dark web.

An RCMP spokesperson in Montreal confirmed two raids on residences in Trois-Rivières as well as one on a business address in Montreal, but was not confirming that the raids related to the online sale of illicit merchandise. They said their investigation does not relate to a specific industry.

The RCMP also confirmed the local raids were part of a larger, international investigation involving the FBI and other agencies. “While today’s raids did not lead to any arrests,” the RCMP spokesperson said, “they served to gather evidence for the investigation, which will be carried out over the next few weeks.”

The morning of July 12

A duty officer at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau noticed during his morning patrol around 7am that a towel was hanging from the toilet door in Alexandre Cazes’ cell, but could not see him. The officer unlocked and entered the cell and found Cazes dead in the toilet section of the cell.

Narcotics Suppression Bureau in Bangkok’s Laksi district

He promptly reported the discovery to senior officers at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau and to Thung Song Hong police station for investigation. Soon after investigators, forensic police and a medical examiner from the Police General Hospital arrived to inspect the scene.

Alexandre Cazes’ cell, inside the Narcotics Suppression Bureau

Investigator Police Captain Saharat Luangsiritonsin described the scene: “Mr Cazes lie on the tiled floor of the toilet area of his cell which is blocked from view by a wall about one metre high. He wore a grey t-shirt and black boxer shorts. A dark-blue towel was wrapped around his neck.”

Alexandre Cazes body, after he was found. The towel still around his neck.

Police Captain Saharat said Cazes had been detained in his cell alone. The towel and other items found in the cell were his personal belongings. “At 07:00, he asked a female suspect held in the opposite cell for the time, she told us. He then went into the toilet area and hanged himself.”

Alexandre Cazes’ personal belongings in his cell

Rescue workers of the Ruamkatanyu Foundation brought the body outside and sent it to General Police Hospital where an autopsy was conducted.

The body is hauled into an ambulance

On the day of his death, Alexandre Cazes was due to meet the public prosecutor in charge of his extradition to the US.

Who was Alexandre Cazes?

Alexandre Cazes was a 26-year-old Canadian citizen from Trois-Rivières, Quebec.

Alexandre Cazes, in an undated photo posted by his stepmother, Kathy Gauthier

According to his LinkedIn profile his skills included, database design, software architectural design, server- and network administration, among other competencies. Surely he was capable enough to setup and administer a dark web market as AlphaBay.

Alexandre Cazes’ LinkedIn Profile

His LinkedIn profile is also referencing to a company called EBX Technologies. The EBX Technologies website went down at the same time as the AlphaBay site, indicating they were being hosted on the same server.

EBX Technologies: Cazes’ now defunct Canadian business

Alexandre Cases’ stepmother Kathy Gauthier, of Trois-Rivières, Québec, said that Cazes was always a “good boy” who had no previous run-ins with the law.

“We always thought his wealth was because of his investments in cryptocurrency and not with a dark market,” she said. “And we don’t understand how he could be how the FBI describes him; it’s totally not the personality of Alexandre Cazes!”

She continued: “And if what the FBI says is true in totality, well, it’s not the Alexandre Cazes that we know… but we will love him just the same and we forgive him.”

On July 13, Gauthier wrote on Facebook: “He was a good little guy, peaceful, anti-drug guy, all his life he tried to convince his dad to quit smoking cigarettes!.. [the father, Martin Cazes] finally stopped in September before going to Thailand… In short, Alexandre was not a criminal.”

Kathy Gauthier’s Facebook post

On the same day, Alexandre’s father, Martin Cazes, told Quebec radio station Radio Mauricie, that he suspects that his son may have been killed and not taken his own life, as American authorities have said.

“He never had a criminal record,” Cazes told the station in a French-language interview. “He never smoked a cigarette, never took drugs.”

Alpha02 or DeSnake?

Earlier today, a Thai police officer confirmed that Cazes was wanted in the US for running a massive online black market: “It’s huge dark web market that trafficks drugs and sell other illegal stuff,” the police officer said, requesting anonymity.

The Wall Street Journal already reported on Thursday that a law enforcement operation spanning three countries had shut down AlphaBay, with Canadian police seizing its servers in Quebec.

Unconfirmed rumours on Reddit claimed that Cazes was the AlphaBay admin known as DeSnake.

The Alphabay founder, known as alpha02 and later simply as admin, mentioned in an interview with Deep.Dot.Web in April 2015 that DeSnake was responsible for the technical and security part of the operation.

But there have been comments stating that Alexandre Cazes was Alpha02 and not DeSnake, simply because Alpha02 spoke french.

Redditor GOllumfun replied in the same thread:

“Cazes was DeSnake. No doubt about that. Could not have been Alpha02, because Alpha02 was living in North America a little over 2 years ago. Cazes had been in Thailand much longer than that, apparently.”

Unanswered questions

Is there a Russian connection?

It was thought that AlphaBay was operating out of Russia, since they forbid the sale of Russian ID’s on the market. Why, if the servers were located in Canada and both Alpha02 and DeSnake spoke French? Or was it just a clever move to mislead law enforcement?

What happened to the assets hold by AlphaBay?

So far there is no information that any government agency took possession of the assets; contrary to Silk Road a few years back, where the FBI quickly went public announcing how many bitcoin were seized.

And finally, who really is (or was) the godfather of AlphaBay?

Neither the FBI nor the RCMP commented on the case, indicating an ongoing investigation.