In a joint US-European dark web sweep, 150 people were arrested.
On Tuesday, police in Europe and the United States reported the arrest of 150 people who allegedly used the dark web to buy and sell large amounts of drugs, guns, and other illegal items.
In the 10-month Operation Dark HunTOR, Europol and US authorities said they seized tens of millions of euros in cash and virtual currencies as they rolled up an online illegal trading bazaar.
They claimed that significant dark web distributors of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, frequently laced with hazardous compounds like fentanyl, had been apprehended.
The majority of the arrests, which took place over several months, were made in the United States, with 65 people arrested; Germany had 47 arrests; and the United Kingdom had 24 arrests. Bulgaria, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Switzerland were among the countries represented.
The arrests come after a similar joint operation headed by Germans in January captured DarkMarket, the dark web’s largest criminal marketplace.
Authorities were able to break through the layers of secrecy that protected merchants by seizing control of DarkMarket, allowing them to track transactions back to their source.
“The point of operations like this is to send a message to criminals operating on the dark web that the law enforcement community has the resources and global partnerships to unmask them and hold them accountable for their illegal activities,” said Europol deputy director of operations Jean-Philippe Lecouffe.
During a press briefing in Washington, US officials stated that the illegal drug trade has shifted to the dark web as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
They said that, in addition to selling illegal narcotics like cocaine, amphetamines, and ecstasy, many of the pharmaceuticals being offered were ostensibly common prescription drugs like Adderall, Xanax, and Oxycontin, but were tainted with more deadly compounds like fentanyl and methamphetamine.
90 percent of the more than 200,000 pills collected in the US side of the operation contained “counterfeit opioids or other narcotics,” such as the exceedingly lethal fentanyl, according to US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.
In a statement released in Washington, Lecouffe stated that the majority of individuals arrested were “among the most prolific or sensitive actors on the dark web.”
According to the US Justice Department, the arrests included a large operation in Houston, Texas, that took anonymous internet purchases and mailed drugs to buyers across the country.
The operation netted a total of 26.7 million euros ($31 million) in cash and virtual currencies, 45 guns, and 234 kilogrammes (516 pounds) of drugs, including amphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, and opiates.
Officials stated Italian police had carried out a parallel operation to Operation Dark HunTOR. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.