London court jails man after Dark Web ricin sting

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Mr Justice Saunders today imprisoned a man for eight years at the Old Bailey in London after an FBI sting in which he tried to buy ricin on the Dark Web.

Cquote1.svg Everyone needs to know that the possession of a chemical weapon is extremely serious and long prison sentences will follow Cquote2.svg

—Mr Justice Saunders

Mohammed Ali, 31, from Liverpool, was convicted at trial of attempting to possess a chemical weapon. He told the jury he was "curious" about the Dark Web, which is a largely hidden and difficult to police section of the Internet. Ali said he didn't realise he had done anything illegal.

Ali was prosecuted under the Chemical Weapons Act 1996 after sending an undercover agent a message reading "Hi, would you be able to make me some ricin and send it to the UK?" He bought 500mg, which has the potential to kill about 1,400, but was sent a dummy package. Counter-terror police in the UK liaised with the FBI.

Illustration of ricin's chemical structure.
Image: AzaToth.

The powder, which Ali paid for in BitCoin, was actually harmless. Hidden inside a toy car, the package was treated with markers and his face glowed under ultraviolet light, indicating he had handled it. The judge said today there was "real risk" involved.

Ali told his trial he had discovered drugs and guns for sale. Computer analysis showed he had looked up ricin and other poisons; he said he went for ricin simply because it had appeared in Breaking Bad. He also searched for small animals after being advised to test it on a rodent; a to-do list on his computer included "paid ricin guy" and "get pet to murder".

Mr Justice Saunders said the case called for "a deterrent sentence", which "will appear harsh to the defendant and his family." "Everyone needs to know that the possession of a chemical weapon is extremely serious and long prison sentences will follow."


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