A U.S. and European operation targeting opioid trafficking on the DarkNet has resulted in 150 arrests in the United States and Europe and the recovery of narcotics, cash, and firearms.
Reuters reports the investigation, dubbed Operation Dark HunTor, named after encrypted internet tools, was announced during a recent press conference held by the U.S. Justice Department, where Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco cautioned online drug dealers:
“There is no dark internet. We can and we will shed a light.”
Anne Milgram, an administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said, “We face new and increasingly dangerous threats as drug traffickers expand into the digital world and use the darknet to sell dangerous drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine. We cannot stress enough the danger of these substances.”
Associate Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate stated:
“Those purchasing drugs through the darknet often don’t know what they’re getting.”
The DarkNet and dark web refer to a section of the internet that can only be accessed with a specialized web browser and the collection of websites that reside there.
Deputy head of the international police organization Europol, Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, praised the achievements of the 10-month long operation Dark HunTor as “spectacular” and said that it will send a message that “no one is beyond the reach of law enforcement, even on the dark web.”
The offenders are accused of conducting tens of thousands of unlawful sales utilizing the dark web section of the internet using anonymity software.
According to the Justice Department, of the 150 suspected drug dealers arrested as a result of Operation Dark HunTor, 65 people were arrested in the United States, 47 in Germany, 24 in the United Kingdom, four each in the Netherlands and Italy, three in France, two in Switzerland, and one in Bulgaria.
The department also noted that the investigation netted more than $31.6 million in cash, virtual currencies, and 45 guns.
Additionally, they said that approximately 515 pounds of narcotics, including over 200,000 ecstasy, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methamphetamine tablets, as well as counterfeit pharmaceuticals, were recovered.
According to the Justice Department, the takedown was based on operations performed in late 2020 and early 2021 to disrupt dark web commerce. DarkMarket, the world’s largest dark web international marketplace, was the prime target of an international crackdown in January. Head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Kenneth Polite, mentioned that international trafficking poses “a global threat and it requires a global response.”
Overdoses from prescribed medicines and illicit narcotics have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals in the United States over the last two decades in the opioid epidemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020, the largest amount on record. The usage of fentanyl, which is believed to be up to 100 times stronger than morphine, is blamed for the spike.