Fifty-five people have been arrested in the UK as part of an international crackdown on illegal drugs and goods trading on the dark web.
Almost 300 suspects have been detained in total, across countries including the US (153), Germany (52), the Netherlands (10), Austria (nine), France (five), Switzerland (two), Poland and Brazil (one each).
They are all suspected of using an illicit marketplace known as Monopoly Market, where substances including amphetamines and cocaine were bought and sold.
During raids coordinated by EU law enforcement agency Europol, and conducted by authorities including the National Crime Agency and National Police Chiefs’ Council in the UK, more than £43m in cash and cryptocurrencies was seized.
Officers also found 850kg of drugs, including 43kg of MDMA and 10kg of LSD and ecstasy pills, and 117 firearms.
Europol said the operation, dubbed SpecTor, was its most successful targeting dark web drug trafficking to date, beating the 179 arrests made as a result of the DisrupTor mission in 2020.
Many of those detained were considered “high-value targets”.
The agency said it showed international cooperation was key to tackling online crime, with the intelligence used to investigate the suspects based on evidence provided by German authorities.
Executive director Catherine De Bolle said: “This operation sends a strong message to criminals on the dark web: international law enforcement has the means and the ability to identify and hold you accountable for your illegal activities, even on the dark web.”
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Investigations continue to identify additional suspects behind accounts on Monopoly Market, Europol revealed.
And as law enforcement gained access to the vendors’ extensive buyer lists during the operation, thousands of customers around the world are also at risk of prosecution.