Dark Web Vendors Arrested

Police confiscated the illicit “Monopoly Market” dark web marketplace and arrested 288 people buying or selling drugs on the dark web as part of an operation coordinated by Europol involving nine countries.

“More than EUR 50.8 million (USD 53.4 million) in cash and virtual currencies, 850 kg of drugs, and 117 firearms were seized. The seized drugs include over 258 kg of amphetamines, 43 kg of cocaine, 43 kg of MDMA and over 10 kg of LSD and ecstasy pills”, reads the announcement from Europol.

The recent drug market seizures also resulted in 1,875 pounds of potentially lethal tablets and more than $50 million in cash and virtual currency.

The sellers traded drugs for Bitcoin and Monero cryptocurrencies on a “Monopoly Market,” where they sold drugs to clients worldwide.

Launched in 2019, Monopoly Market was eventually taken over by authorities in December 2021.

Notably, this operation, known by the code name ‘SpecTor’, comprised several independent complementary operations in Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Brazil, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Switzerland. 

“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,” reads Europol’s public notice.

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

“The vendors arrested due to the police action against Monopoly Market were also active on other illicit marketplaces, further impeding the trade of drugs and illicit goods on the dark web.”

Specifics of the ‘SpecTor’ Operation

Using the gathered information, Operation ‘SpecTor’ targeted high-volume darknet market sellers and purchasers who exchanged cryptocurrencies to sell drugs and firearms to other users.

‘SpecTor’ operation

The majority of the people who were detained—tens of thousands of dealers and customers, according to Europol—lived in the United States (153), the United Kingdom (55), and Germany (52), with 10 and 9 arrests each in the Netherlands and Austria.

The recent reports also mention that with the help of Operation SpecTor, it was made clear that the darknet, a section of the internet that can only be accessed using an encrypted browser, only offers a thin layer of anonymity. 

About 152 pounds of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid so dangerous that two milligrams—the equivalent of a few grains of salt—is a potentially lethal dose—was among the seized drugs.

“The availability of dangerous substances like fentanyl on darknet marketplaces is helping to fuel the crisis that has claimed far too many American lives, “FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. 

“That’s why we will continue to join forces with our law enforcement partners around the globe to attack this problem together.”

Gurubaran is a co-founder of Cyber Security News and GBHackers On Security. He has 10+ years of experience as a Security Consultant, Editor, and Analyst in cybersecurity, technology, and communications.