Major takedown: 288 dark web vendors arrested, $55M in crypto and cash seized
A major coordinated operation by Europol and nine countries has resulted in the shutdown of the illegal dark web marketplace “Monopoly Market” and the arrest of 288 suspects involved in buying or selling drugs on the dark web.
The operation, codenamed SpecTor, saw the seizure of over EUR 50.8 million (USD $55.69 million) in cash and cryptocurrencies, 850 kg of drugs, and 117 firearms, as per the official press release published on May 2.
The move was composed of a series of separate complementary actions in Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Brazil, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Switzerland.
Europol had been compiling intelligence packages based on troves of evidence provided by German authorities, who successfully seized the marketplace’s criminal infrastructure in December 2021. These target packages served as the basis for hundreds of national investigations.
Customers across the globe at risk of prosecution
The vendors arrested as a result of the police action against Monopoly Market were also active on other illicit marketplaces, further impeding the trade of drugs and illicit goods on the dark web.
As a result, 288 vendors and buyers who engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods were arrested across Europe, the United States, and Brazil. A number of these suspects were considered high-value targets by Europol.
The arrests took place in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Switzerland, Poland, and Brazil. A number of investigations to identify additional individuals behind dark web accounts are still ongoing.
As law enforcement authorities gained access to the vendors’ extensive buyer lists, thousands of customers across the globe are now at risk of prosecution as well.
In the run-up to this coordinated operation, German and U.S. authorities also shut down ‘Hydra’, which was the highest-grossing dark web market with an estimated revenue of EUR 1.23 billion, in April 2022. At the time, the Hydra takedown saw EUR 23 million in cryptocurrencies seized by German authorities.
Crypto accounts on sale on the dark web
As previously reported by Finbold, the lucrative business of selling hacked cryptocurrency accounts on the dark web is thriving as more people invest in digital assets.
A recent study by PrivacyAffairs.com revealed that hacked cryptocurrency accounts of the exchanges such as Coinbase and Kraken, are popular targets. According to the findings, verified Coinbase accounts are reportedly being sold for $610, while Kraken users’ accounts have been sold online for as low as $810.
Cryptocurrencies, being largely unregulated and decentralized, are a prime target for cybercriminals looking to make a quick profit. With the increasing value of cryptocurrencies, the incentive for hackers to steal them is also on the rise.
Unfortunately, the anonymity of cryptocurrencies makes it challenging to track down and recover stolen assets, leaving victims with few options for recourse.