In early 2016, the FBI notified Swedish police of a 27-year-old doctoral student selling ricin on the darknet. The suspect sat in custody until his hearing in August where he was released pending a psych evaluation. The psych evaluation proved the man had no preexisting condition and consequently the trial proceeded as planned.
Later, on October 25, the prosecutor made an announcement regarding the likely verdict. The trial initiated on August 25 and carried well into October. A brief recess was had during the psychological evaluation period but after the results, the suspect was back in the courtroom.
Prosecutor Henrik Söderman announced that he believes there is sufficient evidence to convict the 27-year-old of nearly all charges. Uppsala University, the school where the suspect studied and worked, provided the most damning evidence. In 2013, a colleague caught the man stealing something from a school laboratory. Uppsala University installed cameras at the suspect’s work area and lab.
The recordings from the cameras captured the man stealing ricin, sodium azide, cyanogen bromide, and chloroform. Court documents revealed that the PhD student was charged with 12 individual counts of theft, all occurring on separate occasions.
These video tapes proved even more vital once the FBI got involved in the case. Söderman decided to conduct undercover buys of ricin from the student’s marketplace accounts. As the police bought and chatted with the student’s deepweb handle “Larry Flow,” they watched his real world activities, hoping for a connection.
He was seen mailing packages on times and dates that correlated and matched orders made by law enforcement. In one case, he was caught on video tape mailing the specific package ordered. This specific instance was brought up in the courtroom; he mailed a package from a local store; the entire event was recorded on camera. Police came in, retrieved the package, and it was one they just ordered.
As some investigators watched his every move and intercepted outgoing mail, others watched the camera feed from Uppsala University. The suspect was seen logging into Tails and interacting with buyers. Police claimed the times and dates of the man’s communications matched those of the messages sent by investigators.
Law enforcement was able to verify that the student’s outgoing mail contained toxic substances. Every package was intercepted, including a package to representatives of the Czech Government in an extortion attempt. The letter to the Czech Government did not contain ricin as the extortion letter claimed. Instead, it contained cyanogen bromide.
This is the area where the prosecution and defense dispute the most. Lead prosecutor Henrik Söderman firmly believes enough evidence exists to convict the student of the thefts. The video cameras posted at Uppsala University reveal this undeniably, he said. The rest of the prosecution has agreed with Söderman on this point.
The sale and distribution is similarly believed. While not as unanimous and unquestionable as the theft, the link between “Larry Flow” and the PhD student was made evident. However, according to news outlets, the courtroom had some difficulty following the darknet related procedures.
Bengt-Göran Hugosson, the defendant’s lawyer backs up the argument that the darknet sale investigation is inconclusive. He said it was too confusing to follow. The times and dates that his client logged onto Tails could hardly be concretely linked to the police’s messages. Furthermore, since the packages were intercepted by Swedish police, no true sale was conducted.
Hugosson makes a similar argument regarding the charges related to extortion. The package his client mailed did not contain ricin and never reached the Czech Republic.
Söderman, in his recent statement to the press, said there was enough evidence to convict on the theft charges. The court will also convict the student of charges relating to the violation of the Military Equipment Act. The accused lacked the proper authorization to use or posses ricin.
Even if the man does not get convicted on the distribution and extortion charges, Söderman said he should be judged accordingly. He said the defendant should be judged “as rough as the act with regard to the hazard and the purpose of the provision of a particularly serious nature .”