Europol Seizes $53M in Crypto and Fiat, Arrests 288 in Dark Web Operation
On Tuesday, May 2nd, both the Europol and the US Justice Department announced in their press releases that a major police operation targeting dark web operations concluded successfully. SpecTor—the multinational operation—was led by the EU’s Europol and coordinated between nine countries. It saw the seizure of an illicit online marketplace, millions of dollars in fiat, cryptocurrencies, and drugs, and the arrest of 288 individuals.
Operation SpecTor Concludes With 288 Arrests, Millions Seized in Crypto, Fiat, and Drugs
This Tuesday, law enforcement agencies from multiple regions, most prominent being the US and the EU, announced the results of a joint operation targeting dark web activity. The operation was primarily coordinated by Europol but involved agencies in the US, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, and Brazil.
The international effort to crack down on illegal dark web activities and the individuals behind them has been ongoing for years. The main target of SpecTor—the operation—was a marketplace known as “Monopoly Market” and its online infrastructure was seized by German authorities in December 2021. According to Europol’s press release, the subsequent manhunt largely hinged on the information provided by German police.
Ultimately, 288 individuals were arrested and large quantities of various drugs, as well as $53 million in fiat and cryptocurrencies, were seized by the nine participating nations. The bulk of the arrests—155—were made in the United States. In the DoJ’s press release on Operation SpecTor, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland highlighted the United States’ ability and willingness to work with its international partners to hunt down criminals even if they “try to hide in the furthest reaches of the internet”.
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The International Effort to Crack Down on Crypto-Financed Dark Web Activity
The Department of Justice has been working closely with its foreign partners for decades to crack down on various forms of international crime. The fight has been moving increasingly into cyberspace and has, over recent years, seen multiple cases involving the use of cryptocurrencies and digital assets as a way of obfuscating illicit activity.
Last month, for example, saw the conclusion of a case that led to the seizure of more than 50,000 BTC from a hacker that stole the cryptocurrency from “Silk Road”—another dark web marketplace—in 2012. Around the same time, the US Government announced its plans to sell the seized Bitcoin in multiple phases throughout the year causing some anxiety on how the sales would affect the market.
The Department of Justice has also been actively working on preventing the use of stolen digital assets to finance various weapons programs, most commonly targeting North Korean agents as with an indictment that was unsealed last Monday. The DoJ, also working with its international partners, busted a crime ring that sought to hide its weapons and oil smuggling operations using the anonymity offered by cryptocurrencies.
Do you think operations like SpecTor will help dissuade criminals from using cryptocurrencies in their dark web operations? Let us know in the comments below.