Police Arrest 150 Suspects In Dark Web Operation

Police around the world have arrested 150 suspects involved in buying or selling illegal goods online in one of the largest-ever stings on the Dark Web, according to Europol. Operation DarkHunTOR has recovered millions of Euros in cash and Bitcoin, as well as drugs and guns.

Law enforcement officers agents in the US and Europe made the arrests and seized more than a quarter ton of illicit drugs in an international operation aimed at disrupting sales on a portion of the internet known as the Dark Net, authorities announced this week.

The sweep netted more than $31 million in cash and crypto currency in 14 US states and seven European countries. A total of 65 people were arrested in the U.S., and 85 were arrested in Europe. The operation originated from a German-led police action earlier this year, taking down the “world’s largest” dark web marketplace, which had been used by its alleged operator, an Australian, to facilitate the sale of drugs, stolen credit card data and malware.

The Dark Web is a hidden collective of internet sites only accessible by specialised web browsing software. It keeps online activity anonymous and private, making it harder for law enforcement agencies to track criminal behaviour. It can also be used to protect whistleblowers and help others evade government censorship.

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,” the Hague-based Europol said. “Operation Dark HunTor was launched with one clear goal: to hunt down the vendors, buyers, and suppliers who had been hiding on that site and make sure they did not find a new platform,” deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco said at a press conference. 

In the United States police arrested 65 people, while 47 were held in Germany, 24 in the UK, and four each in Italy and the Netherlands, among others. A number of those arrested “were considered high-value targets” by Europol.

Police officers confiscated 26.7 million Euros ($31m) in cash and virtual currencies, as well as 45 guns and 234kg (516 pounds) of drugs, including 25,000 Ecstasy pills. Italian police also shut down the “DeepSea” and “Berlusconi” marketplaces, “which together boasted over 100,000 announcements of illegal products”, said Europol, which coordinated the operation together with its twin judicial agency Eurojust. “The point of operations such as this is to put criminals operating on the dark web on notice (that) the law enforcement community has the means and global partnerships to unmask them and hold them accountable for their illegal activities, even in areas of the dark web,” Europol Deputy Director of Operations Jean-Philippe Lecouffe said.

Rolf van Wegberg, a cyber crime investigator at the TU Delft university said the operation signalled a break in the trend of recent police actions against suspected online criminals. "This kind of operations in the past looked at arresting the controllers of these marketplaces, we now see police services targeting the top sellers," he told   Dutch journalists.

Europol:     NBC:     France24:      Wired:       Al Jazeera:     The Verge:      Daily Mail:   

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