Police forces across the world have arrested 150 alleged suspects involved in buying or selling illicit goods on the dark web as part of a coordinated international operation involving nine countries.
More than $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.
This operation, known as Dark HunTOR, was composed of a series of separate but complementary actions in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, with coordination efforts led by Europol and Eurojust.
Operation Dark HunTOR stems from the takedown earlier this year of DarkMarket, the world’s then-largest illegal marketplace on the dark web. 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. Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) has since been compiling intelligence packages to identify the key targets.
As a result, 150 vendors and buyers who engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods were arrested across Europe and the United States. A number of these suspects were considered as High-Value Targets by Europol.
These arrests took place in the United States (65), Germany (47), the United Kingdom (24), Italy (4), the Netherlands (4), France (3), Switzerland (2) and Bulgaria (1). A number of investigations are still ongoing to identify additional individuals behind dark web accounts.
In the framework of this operation the Italian authorities also shut down the DeepSea and Berlusconi dark web marketplaces, which together boasted over 100,000 announcements of illegal products. Four administrators were arrested, and €3.6 million in cryptocurrencies seized.
Europol’s EC3 facilitated the information exchange in the framework of the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) hosted at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands.