‘The Underground Golden Age Is Over’: Epic Dark Web Opioid Bust Sees 179 Arrests And $6.5 Million Seized

Forbes –

One of the biggest ever busts of dark web enterprise

In one of the biggest ever busts of dark web enterprise, global police agencies announced Tuesday they had arrested 179 vendors and buyers of illegal drugs in Europe and the U.S.

Also scooped up in raids were over $6.5 million in both cash and virtual currencies and 1,100 pounds of drugs, including dangerous opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone, as well as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and MDMA. A total of 64 firearms were also seized. It’s been dubbed DisrupTor, Tor being the heavily encrypted and obfuscated network that hosts much of the so-called “dark web”.

The majority of the arrests were in the U.S. where 121 were apprehended, whilst 42 were in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in the U.K., three in Austria and one in Sweden.

In announcing the operation, Europol claimed the “golden age of the dark web marketplace is over.”

“Law enforcement is most effective when working together, and today’s announcement sends a strong message to criminals selling or buying illicit goods on the dark web: the hidden internet is no longer hidden, and your anonymous activity is not anonymous. Law enforcement is committed to tracking down criminals, no matter where they operate – be it on the streets or behind a computer screen,” said Edvardas Šileris, head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3).

Europol told Forbes it couldn’t comment on how investigators managed to identify people who thought they were anonymous thanks to the protections of the Tor network. But the policing body said other investigations were ongoing to identify individuals behind various other dark web accounts.

“After the takedown the data from the seized servers [from Wall Street] has been shared with Europol for analysis purposes and identification of targets that traded in illegal commodities on the market place. The available data was analyzed in a joint effort by the international law enforcement community,” Šileris added. “Europol has further developed this information into intelligence packages which have been send to the appropriate countries and have led to many different investigations worldwide.”

The U.S. probe involved a wide range of investigators from the FBI, ICE, the DEA, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Defense Department. The Justice Department claimed it was the “largest international law enforcement operation targeting opioid traffickers on the dark net.”

“With the spike in opioid-related overdose deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic, we recognize that today’s announcement is important and timely,” said FBI director Christopher Wray. “The FBI wants to assure the American public, and the world, that we are committed to identifying dark net drug dealers and bringing them to justice.”

The announcement came after some major dark web takedowns in the last few years, including that of the Wall Street market in May 2019. Vendors from that site were targeted in the latest bust and have previously been arrested by U.S. police since the market’s closure. As Forbes reported in January, two brothers were apprehended for running a six-year, multi-million dollar dark web drug-dealing operation under the name Pill Cosby. Many of their sales took place on Wall Street.

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