European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol has said that police forces around the world have arrested 150 suspects in its largest-ever stings on the dark web. The agency said that the suspects were involved in buying or selling illegal goods online.

The Hague-based Europol said that Operation Dark HunTOR also recovered millions of euros in cash and Bitcoin, as well as drugs and guns. Europol coordinated the operation together with its twin judicial agency Eurojust.

Europol Deputy Director of Operations Jean-Philippe Lecouffe said, “The point of operations such as this is to put criminals operating on the dark web on notice (that) the law enforcement community has the means and global partnerships to unmask them and hold them accountable for their illegal activities, even in areas of the dark web.”

The bust stems from a German-led police sting earlier this year that took down the “world’s largest” dark web marketplace. The alleged operator of the illegal marketplace is said to be an Australian who facilitated the sale of drugs, stolen credit card data, and malware.

Europol said that Dark HunTOR, “was composed of a series of separate but complementary actions in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States”.

In the US alone, police arrested 65 people, while 47 were held in Germany, 24 in the UK, and four each in Italy and the Netherlands, among others. A number of those arrested “were considered high-value targets” by Europol.

Police recover $31m cash, guns, drugs

In several raids across the globe, police officers confiscated $31m in cash and virtual currencies, as well as 45 guns and 234kg of drugs, including 25,000 Ecstasy pills.

Europol said that Italian police also shut down the “DeepSea” and “Berlusconi” marketplaces, “which together boasted over 100,000 announcements of illegal products”.

The dark web is a hidden collective of internet sites only accessible by specialised web browsing software. It keeps online activity anonymous and private, making it harder for law enforcement agencies to track criminal behaviour.

Despite the horrors of the dark web, it has also been used to protect whistle-blowers and help others evade government censorship.


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