[NOTICE: THE PRODUCTION, MARKETING AND TRANSFER OF NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCES IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE, PUNISHABLE BY LAW. SEE ARTICLES 228-231 OF THE RUSSIAN CRIMINAL CODE] [THIS VIDEO IS A PART OF A JOURNALISTIC INVESTIGATION, MADE EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE PURPOSE OF INFORMING THE GENERAL PUBLIC ABOUT THE DANGERS OF DRUG USE AND DRUG TRADE. LENTA.RU IS AGAINST NARCOTIC DRUGS] In 2017, after the termination of RAMP platform, Hydra cryptomarket became the monopolist of the darknet. The site immediately launched a large-scale ad campaign to expand its audience. [Russia on Drugs] The main stake was made on the active promotion of illegal drugs in the public segment of the Internet. In mid-July, Hydra bought a large number of YouTube commercials from its official channel. Their promo video emphasized the convenience and anonymity of the darknet resource. In the comment section, Hydra’s SMM specialists explained the benefits of the site through witty memes. YouTube blocked the video the next day, but in August a new one emerged. [-What’s up, dog!] This time it was uploaded from fake accounts. The third and final drug ad on YouTube came out at the beginning of 2018. All videos were promptly deleted. Still, given numerous copies on VKontakte site, [33 million people] have managed to watch them. The next major promotional campaign by Hydra was the spam mailing on WhatsApp and Viber, which had affected more than half a million Russian users. Mass mailings were headed directly towards the regional centers of Russia. Only the residents of large cities have been spammed. [Vadim, IT specialist]: “They bought a phone number database on the darknet. Then they took anonymous SIM cards, added the numbers from that database to the contacts and sent a message to everyone who was registered on those messengers” Since the spam attacks coincided with the latest wave of telephone terrorism, [the FSS special unit] started an investigation. Fearing to be exposed, Hydra’s promo team suspended its activities. But not for long. In July 2017, a new large-scale advertising campaign on Telegram began. Some online shops from the terminated RAMP site went to Pavel Durov’s messenger. As a result, many Telegram channels devoted to darknet, drugs and cryptocurrencies have been launched. One post with a link to Hydra cost from [$160 to $2350]. A net of several popular channels could earn [about $3-$5 thousand a day]. The monthly income of such nets reached [$94,2 thousand]. Hydra has been actively developing its Telegram channel, [Hydra spent from $785 thousand to $1.1 million a month on advertising through Telegram] turning it into a full-fledged corporate media. Drug-related articles written by paid contributors were published online regularly. The official press, which constantly mentioned the darknet and illegal substances, has also attracted wide attention to those topics. A new teenage subculture has developed in Russia, complete with its own memes and specific vocabulary. [DROP — drugs, pre-packed and hidden in an inconspicuous place] [SHKUROHOD — an experienced drug dealer who steals ready-made drops] [GULL — an experienced drug dealer who constantly asks the shop to renew the drop] Massive drug propaganda turned out to be quite effective and Hydra audience grew steadily. Today, [815 thousand users] buy drugs on Hydra. The design and functionality of the site played a significant role in its popularity. The interface resembled AliExpress (an online retail service). There was a similar personal account page and various categories of products. But Hydra’s customers search for stimulants and euphorhetics instead of smartphones and sneakers. Hydra’s main income comes from auto shops. They offer dead drops with illegal substances, categorized by different districts of a particular city. Customers pay for drugs in Bitcoin, using QIWI Wallet or Yandex.Money payment services. After confirming the transaction, the buyer is automatically given an address with GPS coordinates, a description and photos of the location. Dead drops are distributed by Dropmen, the foot soldiers of the drug business. [DROPMAN (or Kladman)] Their profession is the most popular in the shadow trade. But the risks and staff turnover are also extremely high. “I got into this coz’ I needed the cash… Almost everyone can do this — that’s the idea they’re selling you…” Many dropmen quit after a few months, unable to withstand constant stress. But new candidates are always eager to take their place. “My first employer was on Telegram. When that spat between Hydra and RAMP started, Hydra took over the whole market. And I have already moved to Hydra. In 2 years I’ve changed 4 shops. In the last of them, I earned about 600-800 dollars a week” Dropmen receive from 5 to 16 dollars for each drop that was successfully found by the buyer. But the final income depends only on their luck, resourcefulness and training. “The most I could do was 50 drops in 2-3 hours. I hid hashish, amphetamines, basically, everything I was given” The motivation to work as a dropman is different for everyone, but the ending is usually the same. The police know their methods well, so most often dropmen end up behind bars. After all, each of them carries several dozen ready-made drops with illegal substances. If caught, they can get [at least 4 years in prison] under Article 228, Part 1. “I’ve known five dropmen. Three of them are already locked up, I think. Why did I quit? Probably because I was really fucked up. Too close to prison and death. And at some point I realized that the faster you quit, the better it would end” People who collect drugs and deliver them to dropmen are called [STOREMEN]. They leave master drops – big sets of ready-made drops. Storemen also keep large batches of substances. An experienced storeman rents a garage or a separate apartment on the outskirts of the city for drug storage. Some storemen have separate spaces for pre-packing and storage of substances and ready-made drops. “I started doing it because I needed money… Pretty quickly I began making good cash. Four months later, I was promoted to storeman… Well, that’s how it went…” Drugs must be transported to the storehouses, so the large shops employ drivers. But often storemen pick up the stuff themselves, after receiving the coordinates from the shop. “I pick up a new batch myself and take it to the flat, rented specially for my work. Then I pack the staff for dropmen, usually 10-30 grams for each drop. I work with almost all types of drugs, except for synthetics” Storemen’s income depends on the type of drug they work with. On average, they earn at least $23 for a master drop, while experienced storemen make up to [$8000 a month]. “I earn enough money… So I can live comfortably… I travel… I eat at decent restaurants. Life is OK, in general. I’ve almost saved up to get my own place. Things are good” Most suppliers concentrate on the production of mephedrone, the most popular drug in Russia. This cheap-to-produce euphoretic is sometimes called the “poor man’s cocaine”. High demand for mephedrone helps Hydra’s shops to explore new markets and increase their profits. [Mephedrone (meph, meow, wool)
4-methyl ephedrone A synthetic drug of the amphetamine and cathinone classes, a psychostimulant and an empathogen Short-term effects: increases sexual desire and accelerates cognitive processes Long-term effects: heart and blood pressure problems, depression, panic attacks] Regional shops mostly sell franchises to dealers who buy wholesale batches from them, establishing their own network of operators, storemen and dropmen. [Cost of opening a shop on Hydra — $300
Monthly rent — $100] But many drug dealers open their own shops from scratch. [OPERATOR] is the key figure of a shop. Professionalism and hard work of an operator determine the popularity and income of the business. [Operator’s salary in a large shop equals 2.3-3.1 thousand dollars plus 5% of total sales] Operators solve all issues with the administration, put the address of each drop into the database and communicate with customers. Small shops usually buy drugs from larger players. As a rule, this is a necessary condition for starting a business. After all, newbies have no direct access to the manufacturers of illegal substances. Nearly the entire range of drugs is sold in 95% of the online shops. Most of those substances are produced in Russia. At the same time, increased demand directly affects their quality. Chemists simply don’t have enough time to provide the needed amount of substances so dealers regularly cut their product. Managing such big platform as Hydra is extremely difficult. Several dozens of people with clearly defined responsibilities administrate the site. A person with a modest nickname [Admin] is considered to be [the founder of Hydra]. Moderators [Fatality], [IronMan], [Deus], [Handsome Jack], [Enter] and [Tabou] supervise the disputes with wholesalers. They also monitor shop ratings and reviews and communicate with regular customers. Moderators report to the forum administrator under the nickname [Resident] and his deputy, [Burning Man]. The development team is headed by [admin_dev], and [GlavRed] leads the marketing and PR department. Two other Hydra executives, [Observer] and [Satoshi Nakomoto], have no official position. But according to insiders, they make key decisions concerning the development of the site. The ever-increasing Bitcoin exchange rate also contributes to the growth of drug dealers’ income. Hydra’s business model is so well structured that the site’s position will only be strengthened. Every day, more than [800 thousand Russians] pick up drops with drugs valued at [$3.6 million dollars]. This is [$94.2 million a month] and more than [$1 billion a year]. [Satoshi Nakamoto: “When RAMP was shut down because of its team’s low qualification, we had no competitors left. And from the very beginning, RAMP and Hydra differed like television and the Internet”] It’s hard to argue with these words. While Russians spend almost all their free time on the Internet, Hydra stretches its virtual tentacles farther and farther. And in the meantime, the country is plunging into the abyss of drug addiction… In our next video: Dismal fates of Russian drug dealers… Real stories of those who leave the drops… What awaits convicted drug traffickers after their release?