Earlier this year, a Europol-coordinated multinational operation shut down DarkMarket, allegedly the world’s largest dark web bazaar (via Gizmodo). The Australian guy suspected of being the site’s operator was apprehended by German law authorities. Following the collapse of DarkMarket, the dark web’s largest illicit marketplace, 150 alleged drug suppliers and purchasers were arrested after a 10-month investigation.
According to Europol, the EU’s criminal enforcement agency, the site had 500,000 members and facilitated roughly 320,000 transactions, with customers buying and selling anything from malware and stolen credit card information to guns and narcotics. At that time the dark market shut down the German officials gathered some serious evidence along with the mastermind of the operation and this week that evidence led to the arrest of the other main players.
According to the US Department of Justice and Europol, law enforcement officers in Germany (47), the United States (65), the United Kingdom (24), the Netherlands (4), Italy (4), France (3), Switzerland (2), and Bulgaria made multiple arrests as part of Operation Dark HunTor (1). During the arrests, police recovered 45 guns more than $31.6 million in cash and cryptocurrency, as well as around 234 kilos of narcotics, including opiates, cocaine, amphetamine, fentanyl and, MDMA, “A number of investigations are still ongoing,” the Department of Justice said.
Two additional dark web markets — DeepSea and Berlusconi — were also shut down as part of the investigation, with four accused administrators arrested and €3.6 million ($4.17 million) in cryptocurrencies seized.
Although the dark web was long thought to be a reasonably secure sanctuary for drug dealers and buyers, multinational operations such as Dark HunTor have seen frequent suspect arrests and marketplace closures. Dream, White House, Wall Street, DeepSea, and Dark Market are just a few of the dark web markets that have disappeared in recent years. Although law enforcement must play well with such sites, with new marketplaces rising up as old ones close, it makes it more difficult for buyers and sellers to create stable enterprises. Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Europol’s Deputy Executive Director of Operations said in a press release “The point of operations such as the one today is to put criminals operating on the dark web on notice: 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.”