Europol Arrests 17 in Darknet Crackdown


by Andrew Arnett

A day after Thursday’s FBI arrest of 26-year old Blake Benthall on charges of operating the illicit website Silk Road 2.0, Europol has announced a total of 17 arrests and the shutdown of 414 Darknet websites offering illegal goods and services, according to the Guardian.

The joint international operation, code named “Operation Onymous,” has seized $1 million in bitcoin currency, $220,000 in cash, including drugs and guns.

Law enforcement agencies from 17 countries were involved in the operation based at Europol’s Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce headquartered at The Hague, Netherlands.

Troels Oerting, head of the European police agency’s cybercrimes division stated “We will go after drug dealers regardless of whether they operate in the physical or virtual world.”

In addition to shutting down Silk Road 2.0, the sting has netted websites located on the Tor anonymity network, including the sites Blue Sky, Pandora, Hydra, and Cloud Nine.

Silk Road 2.0 had sales of $8 million per month with 150,000 active users. According to the Guardian, Silk Road 2.0 had “over 13,000 listings for controlled substances, including, among others, 1,783 listings for “psychedelics”, 1,697 listings for “ecstasy”, 1,707 listings for “cannabis”, and 379 listings for “opioids”.

The illicit drug trade has flourished on the Darknet since the original Silk Road was seized, and its owner Ross Ulbrecht, aka “the Dread Pirate Roberts,” was taken into custody in October 2013.

According to Oerting, the operation is ongoing and more arrests in other countries are expected.

Oerting also stated that “In the next wave we’re going to come after people using these sites. They might hear a knock at the door.”

According to Business Insider, on Friday November 7, only hours after the closure of Silk Road 2.0, a new site, Silk Road 3.0, went online and operational.

[ Note: All links to references are underlined ]