International mega-operation dismantled a “dark web” portal that sold weapons and drugs: at least 288 detainees

Image from the Europol report on the SpecTor operation

An international police operation closed a portal of the “dark web”, the hidden part of the internet, arrested 288 suspects and seized more than $54.8 million in cash and virtual currencyin addition to drugs and firearms, Europol reported on Tuesday.

The joint operation called SpecTor was organized by the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil with European security authorities and managed to seize almost a ton of drugs and 117 firearms, the European police office, which is based in The Hague, said. .

“In an operation coordinated by Europol and in which nine countries participated, the security forces seized the illegal market Monopoly Market and arrested 288 suspected of being involved in the purchase or sale of drugs,” Europol said. “Several of these suspects were considered high-value targets,” he stated.

This operation occurred after the German police seized the criminal infrastructure of the Monopoly Market sales platform in 2021.

“Europol compiled intelligence packages based on the trove of evidence that was handed over by the German authorities,” Europol explained. “These packages of objectives, created from the crossing and analysis of the data and the evidence collected, served as the basis for hundreds of investigations nationwide,” the agency added.

The largest number of arrests took place in the United States, where 153 people were detained, followed by the United Kingdom with 55, Germany with 52, the Netherlands with ten, France with five and Brazil with one.

confiscated more than 258 kilos of amphetamines, 43 kilos of cocaine, 43 kilos of MDMA, the raw material for ecstasy pills, and more than ten kilos of LSD and ecstasyindicated Europol

“Criminals may think they are anonymous on the dark web, but they are not”said Nan van de Coevering of the Dutch investigative services, quoted in a statement. “In response to this operation, we have published a list on the ‘dark web’ with all the pseudonyms of the detained vendors who have ceased their illegal practices,” she said.

File image of a Europol press conference
File image of a Europol press conference

“Strong message”

The “dark web” is a parallel version of the internet where the anonymity of users is guaranteed -and which also has legal sites, for example to avoid press censorship in certain countries- has been the subject of several international operations in recent years.

In April 2022 the platform was dismantled Hydra Marketa hidden internet site that was considered “the illegal market with the highest turnover in the world” with about 1.23 billion euros in sales in 2020.

This new operation “sends a strong message to the criminals of the ‘dark web'”, said the executive director of Europol, Catherine de Bolle, quoted in the statement. “International security forces have the means and the ability to identify and hold them accountable for their illegal activities”he added.

In April, the world’s largest online marketplace for stolen identities and passwords of more than two million people was dismantled, the platform Genesis. This operation was articulated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Dutch police, with the participation of 17 countries, which culminated in 119 arrests.

Several investigations into the identity of those behind dark web accounts are still ongoing, Dutch police said.


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