The Netherlands – During a coordinated international operation, police authorities arrested a total of 288 suspects involved in buying and selling drugs on the dark web. In this operation, called SpecTor, more than 50 million euros in cash and virtual currencies, 850 kg of drugs and 117 firearms were seized. The seized drugs included more than 258 kg of amphetamine, 43 kg of cocaine and 43 kg of MDMA. The operation consisted of separate but complementary actions that took place in 9 countries over the past 1.5 years. A total of 10 people have been arrested in the Netherlands.
Take evidence from offline Monopoly Market
Operation SpecTor resulted from the seizure of the criminal infrastructure of Monopoly Market, an illegal marketplace on the dark web. This illegal marketplace, which had a strict invite-only policy and only traded drugs, was taken offline in December 2021. Based on the resulting evidence, Europol’s European Cybercrime Center (EC3) has compiled information packages. These packages formed the basis for criminal investigations in various countries.
In addition to the 10 arrests in the Netherlands, arrests were made in the United States (153), the United Kingdom (55), Germany (52), Austria (9), France (5), Switzerland (2), Poland (1) and Brazil (1). A number of investigations into the identity of people behind the dark web accounts have not yet been completed. The police services will continue to use the data in the coming period to identify and prosecute sellers and buyers.
Arrests and sending a signal
The Cyber Enabled Crime Team (TCEC) of the National Criminal Investigation Service of the National Unit is active in combating dark web markets and, on behalf of the Dutch police, is part of the so-called Operational Coordination Group (OPCG) of Europol, which initiated Operation Spector. Nan van de Coevering, team leader of TCEC, is proud of the results of the operation: ‘The intelligence that Europol shared with us, such as transaction data and virtual currency addresses, helped us to start new investigations and to enrich existing investigations. In this way we have identified and apprehended a number of important Dutch sellers. The success of this operation again shows that international cooperation is essential in combating crime on the dark web.’
Criminals on the dark web are not anonymous
At TCEC, they see that crime on the dark web is constantly changing. Van de Coevering: ‘As a police force, we continue to follow these developments closely and we continuously adapt our techniques to maintain our effectiveness. In addition, we continue to send out the signal that criminals can imagine themselves to be anonymous on the dark web, but are not. Also in response to this operation, we published a list on the dark web, containing all the nicknames of arrested sellers who have stopped their illegal practices. Buyers know they can’t trust the sellers on the list. Using the dark web for criminal activities is a criminal offense and cannot be without consequences. We will continue to work for this nationally and internationally, together with our partners.’
Disruptor and DarkhunTor
For Operation SpecTor, TCEC worked together with, among others, the Postal Intervention Team of the Infrastructure Service of the National Unit and detectives from the Zeeland-West Brabant Unit and the Central Netherlands Unit. During the previous international operations DisrupTor (2020) and DarkhunTor (2021), hundreds of sellers and buyers of illegal goods on the dark web were also arrested. The fact that more arrests have been made at SpecTor worldwide is mainly due to increased expertise and a growth in the number of international police teams that are active on the dark web.
Are you planning to buy illegal goods through the dark web?
Remember that you are not anonymous online. (International) police services often work together and use different techniques to track down both sellers and buyers of illegal goods. There are risks associated with purchasing products through the dark web:
- You don’t know who to trust online.
- There is a real risk of prosecution. Using the dark web for criminal activities is a criminal offense and can lead to imprisonment in several countries.
- The managers of an illegal market also come into the picture with the police and the judiciary.
Information source: Politie.nl