Police Arrest 150 Dark Web Vendors Of Illegal Drugs and Guns
Law enforcement authorities arrested 150 suspects allegedly involved in selling and buying illicit goods on DarkMarket, the largest illegal marketplace on the dark web when it was taken down in January 2021.
“At the time, German authorities arrested the marketplace’s alleged operator and seized the criminal infrastructure, providing investigators across the world with a trove of evidence,” the Europol said today.
“Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) has since been compiling intelligence packages to identify the key targets.”
The arrests are the result of a coordinated international operation dubbed Dark HunTOR that lasted ten months and involved police forces and investigators from nine countries.
The suspects were apprehended in the United States (65), Germany (47), the United Kingdom (24), Italy (4), the Netherlands (4), France (3), Switzerland (2), and Bulgaria (1).
Dark HunTOR investigations are still ongoing, with investigators still working on identifying more individuals behind DarkMarket accounts.
The operation also led to the seizure of €26.7 million ($31 million) in cash and cryptocurrency, as well as 234 kg drugs (152 kg of amphetamine, 27 kg of opioids, and over 25 000 ecstasy pills) and 45 firearms.
Italian dark web marketplaces also taken down
Italian authorities also shut down the Berlusconi and DeepSea dark web marketplaces as part of the same operation, arresting four administrators and seizing €3.6 million in cryptocurrencies. Together, these two marketplaces had over 100,000 illegal products up for sale.
“The point of operations such as the one today is to put criminals operating on the dark web on notice: the law enforcement community has the means and global partnerships to unmask them and hold them accountable for their illegal activities, even in areas of the dark web,” said Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Europol’s Deputy Executive Director of Operations.
“The FBI continues to identify and bring to justice drug dealers who believe they can hide their illegal activity through the Darknet,” added FBI Director Christopher A. Wray.
“Criminal darknet markets exist so drug dealers can profit at the expense of others’ safety. The FBI is committed to working with our JCODE and EUROPOL law enforcement partners to disrupt those markets and the borderless, worldwide trade in illicit drugs they enable.”
Countries involved in Dark HunTOR investigations
Dark HunTOR was carried out in the framework of the EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats), a European security initiative that aims to identify and address threats posed by organized international crime.
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Authorities who took part in this operation included investigators from:
- Australia: Australian Federal Police (AFP)
- Bulgaria: General Directorate Combating Organized Crime (Главна дирекция Борба с организираната престъпност)
- France: National Police (Police National – OCLCTIC), National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale – C3N), Customs (Douane)
- Germany: Central Criminal Investigation Department in the German city of Oldenburg (Zentrale Kriminalinspektion Oldenburg), State Criminal Police Office of Lower Saxony (LKA Niedersachsen), Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt), various police departments (Dienststellen der Länderpolizeien), German Investigation Customs ( Zollfahndungsämter)
- Italy: Public Prosecutor’s Office Brescia, Finance Corps (Guardia di Finanza)
- Netherlands: National Police (Politie)
- Switzerland: Zurich Cantonal Police (Kantonspolizei Zürich) and Public Prosecutor’s Office II of the Canton of Zurich (Staatsanwaltschaft II)
- United Kingdom: UK DICE (NCA & NPCC)
- United States: U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI)