European, US and Australian law enforcement officials met Tuesday in the Netherlands to plan a crackdown on illegal online markets trading in everything from drugs to child pornography, Dutch prosecutors said.
The two-day conference in a seaside suburb north of The Hague “is to organize international action against this illegal trade,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Called Project ITOM (Illegal Trade in Online Marketplaces), the crackdown was set in motion two years ago and is being supported by Europe’s police organization Europol and the EU’s judicial agency Eurojust.
It focuses in particular on the Netherlands following the dismantling of the Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0 last year, two of the most prominent “dark markets” that offered a range of illicit goods and services from firearms to computer hacking.
After the underground bazaars were shut down, investigations showed Dutch sellers occupied some 10 percent of Silk Road 2.0, with a total turnover of 32 million euros ($34 million) from both marketplaces.
The Dutch goods mainly found their way to France, Germany, Britain and Australia.
Called “Operation Onymous”, last year’s clampdown saw 17 arrests and the seizure of 410 servers using the TOR encryption network as well as six other dark markets.
Dutch undercover police afterwards arrested a further five suspects active on the illicit markets and seized websites, and bitcoins valued at 500,000 euros in one case, prosecutors say.
In another case, police arrested one of the country’s largest online drug dealers in IJmuiden near Amsterdam and seized huge quantities of drugs like ecstasy and cannabis, traded on the HollandOnline and LowLands d ark markets.
The 55-year-old man and an accomplice are expected to appear in court early next year, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors have described Silk Road 2.0 as one of the most extensive, sophisticated and widely-used criminal online marketplaces.
It was virtually identical to its predecessor and accessible only through TOR, originally an acronym for The Onion Router, which affords web anonymity by shifting the apparent identity of a user’s computer.
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