Normally when defendants appear in German courts they obscure their face from the waiting press photographers – with sunglasses, a hat, a mask or – most popular – a ring binder.
But there is nothing normal about 28-year-old Maximillian Schmidt, who strode into a Leipzig state court last week wearing a broad smile, looking like he owned the place.
He is used to an audience. A decade ago, as an 18-year-old student, Schmidt quit his restaurant job and set up Shiny Flakes, a Darknet website selling drugs online – around one tonne in total. Shipping them worldwide using the regular postal service, his business earned him at least €3 million and inspired the Netflix show How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast).
Arrested and charged in 2015 aged 20, he was sentenced to a seven-year juvenile prison sentence for running the notorious platform described by one investigator as “Amazon for drugs”.
After police found a sales list on his computer with around 14,000 entries, Schmidt – who says he has never taken drugs himself – acted as state witness in trials of his former customers.
Now he is back in court and faces a fresh term in prison for allegedly setting up and operating a new drug-dealing platform, Candylove while on day release.
Between April 2019 – three months before he left prison early, for good behaviour – and January 2021, Leipzig prosecutors accuse Schmidt of selling online around 20kg of drugs worth nearly €95,000 Europe-wide in 471 deliveries: 16.5kg of amphetamines, 2.6kg of hashish, almost two kilograms of MDMA-Ecstasy, half a kilogram of crystal meth, 350g of cocaine and thousands of other psychoactive pills.
The Leipzig court heard that Schmidt was allegedly the boss of the new operation while two other men on trial – aged 36 and 43 – took care of logistics and legal operations respectively.
Unlike Shiny Flakes, which operated from Schmidt’s childhood bedroom, investigators say Candylove was based in a small inner-city student apartment in Leipzig.
Police became aware of the new drugs platform after mix-ups with packages that carried no return address and were opened. Undercover officers placed orders as part of a sting operation and moved in on the alleged drug operation.
According to Leipzig investigators, Schmidt had begun running Candylove while filming a documentary for Netflix – from inside prison – about his original operation.
In the film he described prison life as “very, very, very boring” and said his business was successful because it was simple: “You paid upfront then you got your product, instead of shoes it was drugs.”
Investigators hope that clues and unguarded remarks in the documentary will help them link Schmidt to Candylove. They also hope the new trial will help them track down Schmidt’s drug-dealing fortune, much of which has vanished without trace.
Set to run until June, the new trial will be complicated. The man accused of being Candylove’s legal adviser denies having anything to do with Schmidt while the third defendant’s lawyer alleges police monitored their phone calls discussing trial strategy.