International police arrest 288 worldwide in dark web bust


European Union law enforcement agency Europol said on Tuesday that police worldwide had seized the online dark web marketplace Monopoly Market and arrested 288 ‘dark web vendors’ —including 10 in the Netherlands—who are allegedly involved in buying and selling drugs and other illicit goods on the platform.

‘A number of these suspects were considered high-value targets,’ Europol said.

Based in The Hague, Europol, which coordinated the 18-months long operation SpecTor across nine countries—including the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, the US and UK—said it also recovered almost €51 million in cash and virtual currency, firearms and almost a tonne of drugs, including amphetamines, cocaine, MDMA and ecstasy pills.

The Dutch national police’s Cyber ​​Enabled Crime Team assisted in the operation, which was built on intelligence from evidence collected by Germany when it seized Monopoly Market’s ‘criminal infrastructure’ in December 2021.

‘The intelligence that Europol shared with us, such as transaction data and virtual currency addresses, helped us to start new investigations and to enrich existing investigations. In this way, we have identified and apprehended a number of important Dutch sellers,’ said the Dutch team’s leader, Nan van de Coevering.

‘The success of this operation again shows that international cooperation is essential in combating crime on the dark web.’

Operation SpecTor is the latest major take down of a darknet sales platforms, following the seizure of the highest-grossing dark web market ‘Hydra’ in April 2022 by German and US authorities.

Europol officials said it doesn’t end here. ‘A number of investigations to identify additional individuals behind dark web accounts are still ongoing,’ Europol said. ‘As law enforcement authorities gained access to the vendors’ extensive buyer lists, thousands of customers across the globe are now at risk of prosecution as well.’

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