More than 150 arrested and cash and cryptocurrency worth €26m seized in dark web sting

Drugs, guns and cash recovered in international operation

Several key criminals have been caught in a police sting operation in a dark web crackdown that resulted in the seizure of €26 million ($30.17 million) in cash and cryptocurrency.

More than 150 people were arrested across the UK and Europe.

The high-profile targets were involved in buying or selling illegal goods online in one of the largest stings yet focused on the dark web, Europe's crime agency Europol said.

Operation Dark HunTor also recovered millions of euros in cash and bitcoin, as well as drugs and guns. The investigation stems from a German-led police sting this year that took down the world's largest darknet marketplace.

Dark HunTor, "was composed of a series of separate but complementary actions in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States," the Hague-based Europol said.

In the United States alone, police arrested 65 people, while 47 were held in Germany, 24 in Britain, and four each in Italy and the Netherlands, among others.

A number of those arrested "were considered high-value targets" by Europol.

Italian police also shut down the DeepSea and Berlusconi marketplaces, which the agency says hosted more than 100,000 illegal products.

German police in January closed down the DarkMarket online marketplace, which allegedly facilitated the sale of drugs, stolen credit-card data and malware.

Europol said the arrest of the alleged operator, caught near the German-Danish border at the time, and the seizure of the criminal infrastructure provided "investigators across the world with a trove of evidence".

German prosecutors said DarkMarket came to light in the course of a major investigation against the web-hosting service Cyberbunker, located in a former Nato bunker in south-west Germany.

Europol's European Cybercrime Centre EC3 has since been compiling intelligence packages to identify the key targets.

"The point of operations such as this is to put criminals operating on the dark web on notice [that] the law enforcement community has the means and global partnerships to unmask them and hold them accountable for their illegal activities," Europol deputy director of operations Jean-Philippe Lecouffe said.

The secret darknet includes websites that can be accessed only with specific software or authorisations, ensuring anonymity for users.

Updated: October 27th 2021, 12:12 PM