Dark HunTOR: Police arrested 150 people in dark web drug bust

Pierluigi Paganini October 26, 2021

Dark HunTOR: Police corps across the world have arrested 150 individuals suspected of buying or selling illicit goods on the dark web marketplace DarkMarket.

A joint international operation, tracked as Dark HunTOR, conducted by law enforcement across the world resulted in the arrest of 150 suspects allegedly involved in selling and buying illicit goods in DarkMarket marketplace.

The authorities arrested 65 suspects in the United States, 47 in Germany, 24 in the United Kingdom, 4 in Italy, 4 in the Netherlands, 3 in France, 2 in Switzerland, and one in Bulgaria.

Dark HunTOR operation

DarkMarket, the world’s largest black marketplace on the dark web, has been taken offline in January as a result of an international operation conducted by law enforcement from Germany, Australia, Denmark, Moldova, Ukraine, the United Kingdom (the National Crime Agency), and the USA (DEA, FBI, and IRS) with the support of the Europol.

The figures related to the DarkMarket at the time of the shut down were impressive:

  • almost 500 000 users;
  • more than 2 400 sellers
  • over 320 000 transactions;
  • more than 4 650 bitcoin and 12 800 Monero transferred

The overall transactions, at the current rate, corresponding to a sum of more than €140 million.

The marketplace was an important point of aggregation for online cybercriminals that traded all kinds of drugs, counterfeit money, stolen or counterfeit credit card details, anonymous SIM cards and malware.

The authorities seized more than €26.7 million (USD 31 million) in cash and virtual currencies, as well as 234 kg of drugs and 45 firearms. The police seized 152 kg of amphetamine, 27 kg of opioids and over 25 000 ecstasy pills. 

“Operation Dark HunTOR stems from the takedown earlier this year of DarkMarket, the world’s then-largest illegal marketplace on the dark web. At the time, German authorities arrested the marketplace’s alleged operator and seized the criminal infrastructure, providing investigators across the world with a trove of evidence. Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) has since been compiling intelligence packages to identify the key targets.” states the press release published by the Europol. “As a result, 150 vendors and buyers who engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods were arrested across Europe and the United States. A number of these suspects were considered as High-Value Targets by Europol.”

Europol says that the Dark HunTOR investigation is still ongoing.

The Italian police also shut down the DeepSea and Berlusconi dark web marketplaces as part of the Dark HunTOR operation. According to the press release, the two marketplaces had over 100 000 announcements of illegal products. The authorities arrested four administrators and seized €3.6 million in cryptocurrencies. 

“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,” said Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Europol’s Deputy Executive Director of Operations.

“The FBI continues to identify and bring to justice drug dealers who believe they can hide their illegal activity through the Darknet,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. “Criminal darknet markets exist so drug dealers can profit at the expense of others’ safety. The FBI is committed to working with our JCODE and EUROPOL law enforcement partners to disrupt those markets and the borderless, worldwide trade in illicit drugs they enable.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, cybercrime)

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