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What just happened? An international law enforcement operation targeting opioid traffickers on the dark web has led to over 170 arrests across the US and Europe, along with the seizure of weapons, drugs, and over $6.5 million in both cash and virtual currencies.
The Department of Justice release states that the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (JCODE) team, an FBI operation consisting of multiple agencies, worked with Europol during the nine-month Operation DisrupTor.
The operation began following the Wall Street Market takedown in May 2019, which saw the site’s administrators charged with running an illegal market that served 1.15 million customers and stealing all of the money held in its escrow and user accounts. Information recovered from the Wall Street Market backend server led to a series of “complementary, but separate” investigations.
Operation DisrupTor resulted in the seizure of 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) of drugs worldwide, 274 kgs (604 pounds) from the US alone. The haul included fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, and medicine containing addictive substances.
Of the 179 arrests, 121 were in the US, 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in the UK, three in Austria, and one in Sweden.
“In some ways this is just the perfect-storm combination of traditional criminal activity of all shapes and sizes merging with this more sophisticated technology,” FBI director Christopher Wray said at a press conference yesterday. “But the point of today’s announcement is it doesn’t matter where you go to try to do it or how you try to hide it, we’re coming for you.”
We’ve seen dark web takedowns like this in the past, including the notorious Silk Road. The problem is that marketplaces tend to reappear in a slightly different guise, and new dealers step in to replace those apprehended. But with these arrests and seizures, the DoJ will see this as a big win and one that could dissuade other dark web denizens from peddling drugs.