International cybercrime sting operation leads to the seizure of weapons, drugs, and $31 million from DarkNet opioid traffickers.
Operation Dark HunTor was an international effort by the DoJ (Department of Justice) in cooperation with Europol and a host of law enforcement agencies around the globe. It originated as a joint effort between the Joint Criminal Opioid and DarkNet Enforcement Team (J-CODE, an FBI outfit) and foreign police forces.
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Specifically, it targeted criminals using the dark web for the sale and trafficking of illicit drugs, weapons, and other illegal goods and services. It’s the latest in a long list of large-scale operations against illicit online activities, following last year’s Operation DisrupTor, also targeting drug traffickers on the dark web, and a successful January 2021 operation to take down DarkMarket, an illicit marketplace hosted on the dark web.
Success in these earlier operations directly led to another positive outcome regarding Operation Dark HunTor. Europol stated that when German authorities arrested the DarkMarket’s alleged operator, it allowed them to seize much of its infrastructure and gather evidence to conduct further investigations. Or, as the authorities put it, “complementary, but separate” investigations.
Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and J-CODE used this information to compile intelligence packages identifying key targets. These targets have been implicated in tens of thousands of illicit goods and services sales across Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Operation Dark HunTor marks another massive milestone during this 10-month operation in which authorities have so far arrested over 150 alleged DarkNet drug traffickers and other criminals.
According to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Monaco, “This 10-month massive international law enforcement operation spanned across three continents and involved dozens of U.S. and international law enforcement agencies to send one clear message to those hiding on the Darknet peddling illegal drugs: there is no dark internet. We can, and we will shine a light.”
The contraband confiscated as a result of Operation Dark HunTor amount to:
- $31.6 million in cash and virtual currencies
- 234kg of drugs, including 152.1kg of amphetamine, 21.6kg of cocaine, 26.9kg of opioids, 32.5kg of MDMA
- More than 200,000 ecstasy, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methamphetamine pills, as well as counterfeit medicine
- 45 firearms
The authorities were also able to establish verified links between DarkNet accounts and the real individuals behind them. This led to a total of 150 arrests; 65 in the U.S., 1 in Belgium, 3 in France, 47 in Germany, four in the Netherlands, 24 in the United Kingdom, four in Italy, and two in Switzerland.
“The men and women of the department’s Criminal Division, in close collaboration with our team of interagency and international partners, stand ready to leverage all our resources to protect our communities through the pursuit of those who profit from addiction, under the false belief that they are anonymous on the Darknet,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Only through a whole of government and, in this case, global approach to tackling cyber-enabled drug trafficking can we hope to achieve the significant results illustrated in Operation Dark HunTor.”
On the other side of the Atlantic, Europol’s Deputy Executive Director of Operations, Jean-Philippe Lecouffe had the following to say: “The point of operations such as the one today is to put criminals operating on the dark web on notice: 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 FBI also announced that Italian and U.S. authorities had shut down the DeepSea and Berlusconi dark web marketplaces in an earlier, related operation. Four admins of these marketplaces were arrested with €3.6 million in cryptocurrencies seized.