More than $ 6.5million (£ 5million) in cash was seized in a series of arrests and raids in the United States and Europe, which took place more than a year after the closure of the Wall Street Market darknet site.
At the time, the site – which was operated by three German nationals – was one of the largest illegal online markets, allowing users to purchase illicit items ranging from fraudulent documents to drugs and weapons.
It was accessed through the anonymity-preserving Tor browser, which is legitimately used around the world by people whose Internet access is controlled by authoritarian governments, but which has also provided criminals with a mechanism to thwart the forces of order.
The US Department of Justice dubbed the crackdown Operation DisrupTor – a reference to the software – and said its investigators continued to work to identify people behind darknet accounts.
The three Wall Street market administrators were arrested last year after carrying out a so-called exit scam, suddenly disappearing with the cryptocurrency they held in escrow for sellers and buyers who traded on their site .
In addition to cash and virtual currency, the crackdown led to the seizure of more than 500 kg of drugs – of which approximately 275 kg were captured in the United States – and 64 firearms.
The drugs included 17 kg of fentanyl and 97 kg of methamphetamine, as well as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and other opioids.
FBI officers in Ohio shut down what was described as “one of the most prolific online drug trafficking organizations” in the United States, “which operated under the name” Pill Cosby. ”
Another narcotics vendor called “NeverPressedRX” was, according to the FBI, “so determined to secure his criminal business online that he conspired to use explosives to set fire to and destroy a competing drugstore.”
The arrests included 121 in the United States, two in Canada, 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in the United Kingdom, three in Australia and one in Sweden, according to the US Department of Justice.
“There will be no safe haven for drug trafficking in cyberspace,” the DoJ said in its statement.
“Today’s announcement is a real achievement in the area of international law enforcement cooperation, as darknet crime is truly a global problem that requires a global partnership.
“However, the global nature of the threat also means that foreign countries that fail to act can easily become safe ports for criminals seeking to inject deadly and addictive drugs into the United States from overseas. “