Contract killing services on a global scale are now entirely “virtualized,” according to Lieutenant General Yuri Zhdanov, head of the Russian section of the International Police Association.
Zhdanov, who is also a professor and Doctor of Laws in Russia, told interviewers at Bbabo Net that there have been 10-16 fully-prosecuted murder-for-hire cases each year over the last decade, although the actual number could be four to five times higher.
“All stages of the crime (ordering, searching for the perpetrator, collecting information about the victim) flow to the Internet,” said Zhdanov while referring to contract killings. “The client and the perpetrator are anonymized, the payment for the crime is made with cryptocurrencies.”
According to Zhdanov, 63% of all contract killings are politically motivated, whereas personal reasons make up a mere 3%. The rest, he says, are either because of “economic reasons” or “confrontation between organized crime groups.” He notes that most murder-for-hire targets are high-powered businessmen, recalling a number of instances where the crime was committed by those seeking repayment of debt or trying to get out of a debt.
Though annual contract killings have fallen dramatically in Russia since the mid-1990s, the shift to the dark web poses new problems for government agencies which can be slow to keep up with technological advancements. Magdanov sees this problem as a potential threat to the national security of countries where this type of crime occurs. He noted that the Americas account for 37% of all murder-for-hire reports, with Asia at 33%, and Africa at 24%. Europe accounts for only 6% of reports.
In September 2021, Russian national Sergei Magdanov was detained for his role in creating one of the most predominant “crime as a service” platforms built to operate on the darknet. Magdanov was charged with arranging the murder of a young couple in the Vladimir region of Russia.
The hitman who performed the murder was found to be working through Magdanov’s site, through which he was paid in cryptocurrency and from digital wallets registered under the names of others. The site managed to operate for five years, where Magdanov accepted cryptocurrency “for the execution of serious crimes,” before being detected by a national agency.