Law enforcement agencies seize dark-web market amid crackdown on illicit crypto transactions
May 2, 2023

Law enforcement agencies seize dark-web market amid crackdown on illicit crypto transactions

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Law enforcement agencies around the world recently seized and shut down an illegal dark web marketplace called Monopoly Market as part of efforts to crack down on illicit cryptocurrency transactions, according to a May 2 Europol press release.

Law enforcement seized $53.4 million in cash and crypto as part of the operation — dubbed SpecTor — and arrested 288 vendors that were primarily selling drugs and firearms through Monopoly Market and other similar websites.

Of the 288 arrests, 153 were made in the U.S., 55 in the U.K., and 52 in Germany — with one California-based man accounting for over $2 million worth of sales of methamphetamines and fentanyl.

The remaining arrests were spread out across the Netherlands, Austria, France, Switzerland, Poland, and Brazil.

Law enforcement agencies across eight countries were involved in Operation SpecTor.

Operation SpecTor

According to the Europol, Operation SpecTor began in October 2021 and is part of the same efforts by law enforcement agencies that led to the seizure and shutdown of Hydra and Genesis Market in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

Hydra was the largest illegal marketplace operating on the dark web at the time, while Genesis was the largest identity theft market.

Similar to the operation against Hydra, German police initially seized the server infrastructure of Monopoly Market in December 2021 and subsequently began a “honey pot” operation in collaboration with the Europol and other agencies around the world.

The operation targeted “high value” vendors that were supplying millions worth of illegal goods to multiple markets across the globe.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Operation SpecTor was an “unprecedented” enforcement action by a consortium of U.S. and international law enforcement against dark web drug markets and illicit crypto transactions.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a press conference:

“The Justice Department is cracking down on criminal cryptocurrency transactions, and the online criminal marketplaces that enable them.”

Merrick said the DoJ’s efforts to combat the fentanyl epidemic and the Sinaloa Cartel have revealed that criminals are increasingly turning to the dark web and selling drugs in exchange for cryptocurrencies.

He said that criminals think selling anonymously on dark net marketplaces will let them dodge the law and this has become a trend in recent years. However, the results of recent operations by law enforcement prove that anonymity will not protect these criminals.

He added that the DoJ intends to hunt down every criminal on the dark web, no matter where they try to hide in the “farthest reaches of the internet.”

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