WASHINGTON (AP) – Law enforcement officials in the United States and Europe have arrested 150 people and seized more than $ 31 million in an international investigation into drug trafficking resulting from darknet sales, announced Tuesday the Ministry of Justice.
The arrests are linked to a 10-month investigation between federal law enforcement in the United States and Europol in Europe. Prosecutors allege the charges are responsible for tens of thousands of illegal sales in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
The Justice Department said investigators seized more than $ 31.6 million in cash and virtual currency and 45 firearms.
The darknet is a part of the Internet hosted in an encrypted network and accessible only through specialized tools that provide anonymity, including the Tor browser.
Investigators also recovered a host of illegal drugs, including counterfeit drugs and opioid pills, as well as more than 152 kilograms of amphetamine, 21 kilograms of cocaine and 32.5 kilograms of MDMA, according to prosecutors.
Among those arrested are 65 people in the United States, 47 in Germany, 24 people in the United Kingdom, four in Italy, four in the Netherlands, three in France, two in Switzerland and one in Bulgaria.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said investigators discovered darknet vendors were operating fake labs in their homes to create fake pills – designed to look like prescription pain relievers – containing fentanyl, methamphetamine and others illegal drugs.
The operation was specifically designed to target “distributors of licit drugs who use the darknet to traffic these illicit drugs and items like pill presses, which are fueling the current opioid crisis plaguing our communities.” , Monaco said.
The Justice Department said its investigation is ongoing and investigators are still working to identify other people behind darknet accounts.
While the Justice Department has conducted similar investigations in the past, investigators were particularly concerned when they began to see an increase in opioid sales on the darknet during the pandemic.
“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have turned to the darknet than ever to buy drugs,” Monaco said.
“Before I close, I want to address those who stay on the darknet, those who sell illegal drugs and think they are safe behind layers of digital anonymity. My message to you is simple: there is no dark internet. We can and we will shed light, ”said Monaco.
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