Law enforcement officers from the United States, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland have reported on a large-scale operation Dark HunTOR, during which 150 suspects were arrested who had previously traded illegal goods on DarkMarket. In addition, as part of the same operation, the Italian authorities closed two darknet marketplaces – Berlusconi and DeepSea.
Officials say Operation Dark HunTOR and the subsequent arrests followed the closure of one of the world’s largest underground marketplaces, DarkMarket, in January 2021. Like other similar sites, DarkMarket sold and bought drugs, counterfeit money, stolen bank card data, anonymous SIM cards, malware and many other illegal goods and services.
According to government statistics, the marketplace had over 500,000 users, more than 2,400 of whom were sellers. In January, it was reported that a total of over 320,000 transactions were made on DarkMarket, with a total value of 4,650 BTC and 12,800 Monero (a total of about 140,000,000 euros).
“Then [in January] the German authorities arrested the alleged operator of the marketplace and seized the entire criminal infrastructure, which provided investigators around the world with a lot of evidence,” reads a fresh statement from Europol.
The data from the captured servers were transferred to special services in different countries, according to the US Department of Justice, and they also call the incident “the largest international law enforcement operation.” In addition, the Ministry of Justice clarifies that most of the suspects were drug dealers, that is, they sold or bought opioids and counterfeit drugs on DarkMarket.
In the course of the arrests, authorities seized more than € 26.7 million in cash and cryptocurrency, 234 kg of drugs (152 kg of amphetamine, 27 kg of opioids and over 25,000 ecstasy tablets) and 45 firearms.
The suspects were detained in the USA (65 people), Germany (47 people), Great Britain (24 people), Italy (4 people), the Netherlands (4 people), France (3 people), Switzerland (2 people) and Bulgaria (1 person) ).
In addition, Italian authorities have announced that they have closed two other darknet marketplaces (Berlusconi and DeepSea). Four administrators of these marketplaces have already been arrested, and law enforcement officers have confiscated 3.6 million euros in cryptocurrency. In total, about 100,000 illegal goods were put up for sale on these trading floors.
Interestingly, news of this massive international operation seems to have spread among users even before the official announcement. For example, on the subreddit dedicated to marketplaces on the darknet, there have already been calls to be more attentive. Users were advised to carefully check the information they share with other people so that they do not suffer the same fate.
“Before I close, I want to address all those who remain on the darknet, those who trade illegal drugs and think they are safe behind layers of digital anonymity. My message is very simple: the “dark internet” does not exist. We can shed some light on it and we will, ”Deputy Attorney General of the United States Lisa Monaco said at an official press conference.
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