Dark Web Bust Leads to Arrest of 288 Suspects

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International police have arrested nearly 300 individuals on suspicion of buying or selling drugs on underground marketplace Monopoly Market.

Operation SpecTor also led to the seizure of €51m ($53m) in cash and virtual currency, 850kg of drugs and 117 firearms. Among the drugs haul were 258kg of amphetamines, 43kg of cocaine, 43kg of MDMA and over 10kg of LSD and ecstasy pills, Europol claimed.

The operation involved police in Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Brazil, the UK, the US and Switzerland. The majority of arrests apparently took place in the US (153), UK (55) and Germany (52), with several suspects identified as high-value targets.

Read more on dark web marketplaces: Dark Web Market Revenues Sink 50% in 2022.

Following a secret police takedown of the market in 2021, investigators were able to obtain Monopoly Market vendors’ buyer lists, meaning thousands more individuals worldwide are now also at risk of prosecution.

“Europol has been compiling intelligence packages based on troves of evidence provided by German authorities, who successfully seized the marketplace’s criminal infrastructure in December 2021,” the policing institution explained.

“These target packages, created by cross-matching and analysing the collected data and evidence, served as the basis for hundreds of national investigations.”

The success of Operation SpecTor follows that of the Hydra takedown in April 2022. That market was thought to be the highest grossing ever, with revenues in the region of €1.2bn ($1.4bn).

Other similar international operations included DisrupTor in 2020, which resulted in 179 arrests, and Dark HunTor a year later, when 150 suspects were arrested.

“Our coalition of law enforcement authorities across three continents proves that we all do better when we work together,” argued Europol executive director, Catherine De Bolle.

“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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