The police sting spanned three continents and involved crackdowns in nine countries
Law enforcement agencies from Europe, the United States and Australia have teamed up to arrest some 150 people who are believed to have sold and bought illegal drugs and other illicit goods on the dark web.
“More than €26.7 million (USD 31 million) in cash and virtual currencies have been seized in this operation, as well as 234 kg of drugs and 45 firearms. The seized drugs include 152 kg of amphetamine, 27 kg of opioids, and over 25 000 ecstasy pills,” according to Europol.
The international bust, dubbed Dark HunTOR (possibly a wordplay on ‘hunter’ and the Tor anonymity network), consisted of a series of separate yet complementary operations that took place in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Europol and Eurojust – the European Union’s law enforcement and judicial agencies, respectively – were responsible for the coordination efforts.
RELATED READING: Europol sets up EU‑wide team to fight dark web crime
The arrests build upon the success of last year’s DisrupTor operation and the takedown of DarkMarket in January, the world’s then-largest illicit darknet marketplace. Back then, Germany’s law enforcement apprehended DarkMarket’s suspected operator and seized the bazaar’s IT infrastructure, which provided other law enforcement agencies from around the globe with mountains of evidence.
Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) has used the information to identify key players, which now led to the arrest of no fewer than 150 people in Europe and the US, including some “High Value Targets”.
“Operation Dark HunTor prevented countless lives from being lost to this dangerous trade in illicit and counterfeit drugs, because one pill can kill. The Department of Justice with our international partners will continue to crack down on lethal counterfeit opioids purchased on the Darknet,” said US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, lauding the success of the operation.
During the operation, Italian law enforcement shut down two other dark web bazaars. The takedown of the ‘DeepSea’ and ‘Berlusconi’ marketplaces, which between them boasted more than 100,000 offers of illegal goods, led to the arrests of four administrators and the seizure of €3.6 million (some US$4.2 million) worth of cryptocurrencies.
If you think of buying products or services on a dark web marketplace, perhaps out of sheer curiosity, then be aware that you may ultimately get more than you bargained for – this includes getting scammed out of money through to having your devices infested with malware, Europol warned.