Europol operation arrests 288 in massive dark web drug bust

3 May 2023

Image: © Alexander/

The notorious Monopoly Market site has been seized and 288 suspects have been arrested, in a coordinated strike involving nine countries.

Criminals on the dark web have been dealt a severe blow, as a global coordinated operation has taken down a notorious drug trafficking site.

Monopoly Market has been seized by authorities, while 288 suspects have been arrested. These individuals are believed to have bought or sold drugs on the dark web through this site.

The international operation – called SpecTor – involved “separate complementary actions” in Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Brazil, the UK, the US and Switzerland.

The information used to conduct the operation stemmed from “troves of evidence provided by German authorities”, according to Europol which coordinated the international law enforcement action.

These German authorities successfully seized “criminal infrastructure” in December 2021, which was used to create evidence for hundreds of national investigations.

“A number of investigations to identify additional individuals behind dark web accounts are still ongoing,” Europol wrote in a statement. “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.”

The US Department of Justice claims that Operation SpecTor led to more seizures “than any prior operation”. The total seizures include 117 firearms, 850kg of different drugs and $53.4m in both cash and virtual currencies.

Commenting on the successful operation, Europol executive director Catherine De Bolle said the law enforcement coalition proves that “we all do better when we work together”.

“This operation sends a strong message to criminals on the dark web: international law enforcement has the means and the ability to identify and hold you accountable for your illegal activities, even on the dark web,” De Bolle said.

In March, Europol announced that German and Ukrainian police targeted multiple individuals that are allegedly “core members” of the DoppelPaymer ransomware group.

This gang is believed to have carried out various large-scale attacks since 2019. Europol estimated that in the US, more than €40m was paid to this gang by its victims between May 2019 and March 2021.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic