Law enforcement agencies from nine countries have arrested 150 suspects who sold illegal goods on the dark web, Europol and the US Department of Justice announced today.
Part of a joint operation named Dark HunTOR, suspects were detained in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland.
Officials said the arrests stemmed from a follow-up investigation following the takedown of DarkMarket, the world’s largest dark web marketplace for illegal products, which took place earlier this year in January.
“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 officials said today.
The data from the seized servers was shared with other law enforcement agencies as part of Operation Dark HunTOR, which DOJ Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco described in a press conference today as “the world largest law enforcement operation.”
Monaco also said that most of the suspects arrested today were drug traffickers who sold or bought opioids and fake pills from DarkMarket.
Following the arrests, authorities said they also seized more than €26.7 million ($31 million) in cash and virtual currencies, 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, officials said.
Two dark web markets shuttered in Italy
In addition, Italian authorities also used the data from the DarkMarket bust to track and take down DeepSea and Berlusconi Market, two similar dark web marketplaces catering to Italian users.
The two markets listed more than 100,000 ads for illegal products. Italian officials said they arrested four administrators that ran the two markets and also seized €3.6 million in cryptocurrencies.
News of this large bust also appears to have leaked before the official announcement, with individuals on a forum dedicated to dark web markets urging fellow users to review and pay attention to the information they share with market operators, lest they suffer the same fate.
“Today’s bust also reminds us all that BlackMatter, Conti and other ransomware gangs aren’t the only malicious actors on the internet,” Sam Curry, Chief Security Officer at Cybereason, told The Record today.
“Darknet criminals have been using the world for decades simply as the cash cow that needs milking to them. This is not an honour thing. It’s business. The global darknet includes many different criminal organisations operating with close to zero risk, no accountability, motivated by greed and with no scruples. While today’s bust is encouraging, this sting will barely put a dent in the broader illegal ecosystem.”
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