150 people arrested in US-Europe darknet drug probe

Law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Europe have arrested 150 people and seized more than $31 million in an international drug trafficking investigation stemming from sales on the darknet

Via AP news wire
Tuesday 26 October 2021 16:23
Justice Darknet Drug Trafficking
Justice Darknet Drug Trafficking

Law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Europe have arrested 150 people and seized more than $31 million in an international drug trafficking investigation stemming from sales on the darknet, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

The arrests are connected to a 10-month investigation between federal law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Europol in Europe. Prosecutors allege those charges are responsible for tens of thousands of illegal sales in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia, Bulgaria France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland

The Justice Department says investigators have seized over $31.6 million in cash and virtual currency and 45 guns.

The darknet is a part of the internet hosted within an encrypted network and accessible only through specialized anonymity-providing tools, most notably the Tor Browser.

Investigators also recovered a slew of illegal drugs, including counterfeit medication and opioid pills, along with more than 152 kilograms of amphetamine, 21 kilograms of cocaine and 32.5 kilograms of MDMA, according to prosecutors.

Those arrested include 65 people in the U.S., 47 in Germany, 24 people in the United Kingdom, four in Italy, four in the Netherlands, three in France, two in Switzerland and one person in Bulgaria.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said investigators found darknet vendors were running fake laboratories in their homes to create fake pills — designed to look like prescription pain pills — that are laced with fentanyl, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs.

The operation was specifically designed to target “drug distributors who use the darknet to traffic these illicit drugs and items like pill presses, which are fueling the ongoing opioid crisis plaguing our communities,” Monaco said.

The Justice Department said its investigation was ongoing and investigators were still working to identify other individuals behind darknet accounts.

While the Justice Department has carried out similar investigations in the past, investigators were particularly concerned when they started seeing a surge in opioid sales on the darknet during the pandemic.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have turned to the darknet than ever before to buy drugs,” Monaco said.

“Before I close, I want to address those who remain on the darknet, those who are peddling illegal drugs and thinking they are safe behind layers of digital anonymity. My message to you is simple: There is no dark internet. We can and we will shine a light," Monaco said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in