A global police sting has netted 179 vendors selling illegal goods online and seized millions in currency, drugs and guns, heralding an end to the “golden age” of dark web markets, Europol said Tuesday.
Operation DisrupTor saw law agencies pounce in Austria, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States to target those selling and buying illegal goods on the internet’s premium anonymous bazaar, Europe’s police agency said in a statement.
Led by the German federal criminal police “this takedown provided investigators with… data and materials to identify suspects behind dark web accounts used for illegal activity”, Europol said.
“As a result, 179 vendors who engaged in tens-of-thousands of sales of illicit goods were arrested across Europe and the United States,” in the operation coordinated by Europol, the continent’s judicial agency Eurojust and US government agencies.
Some 121 suspects were arrested in the US, followed by 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in Britain, three in Austria and one in Sweden.
Police also seized more than $6.5 million (5.5 million euros) in cash and online currencies, as well as around 500 kilogrammes of drugs including cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and methamphetamine as well as 64 guns.
A number of investigations were still ongoing, Europol said.
Operation DisrupTor followed a law agency shutdown of the Wall Street Market, the second largest illegal online market on the dark web in May last year which had more than 1.1 million users and 5,400 vendors, Europol said.
“Today’s announcement sends a strong message to criminals buying and selling illicit goods on the dark web,” added Edvardas Sileris, who heads Europol’s EC3 cybercrime centre.
“The hidden internet is no longer hidden and your anonymous activity is not anonymous,” Sileris said, with Europol adding “the golden age of the dark web marketplace is over.”