Crime chiefs hailed the FBI's arrest of the man behind one of the biggest illegal drugs websites. But Channel 4 News reveals others have quickly filled the void caused by the closure of Silk Road.
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Two weeks ago, Ross William Ullbricht was arrested by the FBI in San Francisco.
He is the alleged mastermind behind Silk Road, a multi-million pound online marketplace for illegal drugs.
But as the US authorities were swooping on a library in San Francisco, here in the UK they were primed to pounce on four suspects.
They arrested three men in their early 20s from Manchester and one in his 50s from Devon.
I discovered he was Peter Ward, from Barnstaple, who had been selling herbal highs and drug paraphernalia on Silk Road since its early days.
'Top UK seller'
On web forums people described him as "one of the UK's top sellers" and "reliable."
I visited his home in Devon where he still has a room filled with stock.
But he insists he doesn't sell illegal drugs. He does still have some cannabis seeds, which are legal in this country if they're not fertilised.
He says the police seized up to £15,000 of them and have left him struggling financially.
He has set up shop on another site, Black Market Reloaded and says many are joining him since the closure of Silk Road.
People going elsewhere for drugs
"It's just meant people have migrated to other sites"
Another online drugs site, Atlantis, has also closed down.
Their spokesman told me he's seen sellers of Black Market Reloaded double since Silk Road was shut down.
Part of the reason some of these sites are still in business is because the authorities haven't intefered with the technology that makes these sites possible.
Users have been able to remain anonymous by using special routing and encryption software called TOR.
This allows them to connect to the illicit sites through many different computers. At each step the communication is encrypted differently so that one computer only knows the next and previous link in the chain and people cannot be traced.
Protects activists and whistleblowers
But Tor also has legitmate functions, protecting activists and whistleblowers.
The US government and Human Rights Watch are among those who fund it.
And it's unclear if anyone is willing even if they were able, to compromise it's benefits.
Peter Ward thinks the authorities both sides of the Atlantic are facing a difficult beast that continues to procreate.
He hasn't been charged but the National Crime Agency says further arrests will be made in the coming weeks.
In response to Peter Ward's interview , it told Channel 4 News: "It would be inappropriate for us to discuss recent arrests while an investigation is underway."
"These so called hidden or anonymous online environments are a key priority for the National Crime Agency.
"Using the expertise of over 4,000 officers and the latest technology, we will arrest suspects and disrupt and prevent their illegal activity to protect the public."
03 October 2013
27 September 2013