Europol operation SpecTor leads to an enormous drug explosion on the darkish net

Operation SpecTor, coordinated by Europol and the US Department of Justice, seized over 50 million yesterday. The latter, contrary to Europol’s choice of emoji, were unlikely to be water pistols.

🚨 288 dark web vendors arrested in major market seizure.

Operation #SpecTor resulted in the confiscation of:
💶 50.8 million euros
💊 850 kg of medicines
🔫 117 firearms

The arrested #MonopolyMarket vendors were also active on other illegal marketplaces.

More ⤵️https://t.co/fDbWJbeFiM pic.twitter.com/086e1XMCUo

— Europol (@Europol) 2 May 2023

The arrested vendors operated on the Monopoly Market marketplace, selling drugs to customers in exchange for digital currencies. Active since 2019, Monopoly is one of the candidates hoping for a bigger slice of the dark web pie after law enforcement shut down its top-earning Hydra in April 2022.

“This operation sends a strong message to criminals on the dark web: international law enforcement has the tools and ability to identify and hold you accountable for your illegal activities even on the dark web,” commented Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol.

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Across Europe, the synchronous arrests took place in Great Britain (55), Germany (52), the Netherlands (10), Austria (9), France (5), Switzerland (2) and Poland (1). In addition, 155 people were arrested in the United States and one in Brazil. Europol said a number of the suspects arrested were “high value targets”.

In addition, authorities received buyer lists from vendors, potentially leading to the arrest of “thousands of customers” around the world.

Transaction data accelerated investigations

In 2021, German law enforcement authorities managed to seize the “criminal infrastructure” supporting the site. Since then, they have been able to collect intelligence packages that have served as the basis for hundreds of national investigations.

“The information Europol shared with us, such as transaction data and virtual currency addresses, helped us launch new investigations and enrich existing investigations,” said Dutch team leader Nan van de Coevering. media tells in the Netherlands.

In the US, the operation was led by the Department of Justice’s Joint Criminal and Opioid Darknet Enforcement (JCODE) team, established in 2018. According to US Attorney General Merrick B. GarlandSpecTor “represents the most funds seized and the highest number of arrests in any coordinated international action taken by the Department of Justice against drug traffickers on the dark web.”

The 18-month SpecTor operation is the latest in a series of aptly named high-profile dark web busts by international law enforcement agencies. DisrupTor took place in 2020 with 179 arrests and Dark HunTor 2021 with 150 arrests.

Before its closure last year, Russia-based Hydra had about 17 million customers and focused on trafficking illegal drugs, cyberattack tools, fake documents and stolen data.

Hydra had an estimated turnover of €1.23 billion and German authorities seized €23 million in cryptocurrencies during the bankruptcy. After its shutdown there was an immediate industry-wide precipitous drop in daily dark web market revenue from around $4 million to almost $400,000, according to research by Chainalysis.

The closure of Monopoly may not have the same effect, but the ripples will still be felt across the dark web.

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