Norway police made their largest drug bust ever last month when they arrested 15 people selling drugs on what they claim is the second version of the notorious Silk Road online marketplace that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation closed in 2013, according to the The Local Europe AB, a Swedish news source.
Kripos, Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service, launched Operation Marco Polo, the nation’s largest operation against organized drug crime, on the dark web. Verdens Gang, an Oslo, Norway newspaper reported this week that the sting resulted in the arrested of 15 people, including five men suspected of being Norway’s biggest online drug dealers.
Blake Benthall, known as Defcon, the alleged operator of Silk Road 2.0, made the mistake of registering a server under his own name, according to Dark Web News. This allowed U.S. authorities to gain a list of client and seller names, including Norwegian operators who used the darknet marketplace to sell drugs.
Operators used pseudonyms such as “Kvalitetsbevisst,” “Deeplove” and “Alfa&Omega,” which were also Silk Road user names.
Since 2014, police apprehended and indicted 13 men and two women from the Marco Polo investigation.
Authorities believe the buyers planned to sell the drugs locally.
Police discovered a marijuana plantation as a result of monitoring the Internet. They found a total of 150 cannabis plants in various growth stages in the basement of a house in Skien.
Police also confiscated more than 80 communications devices, including computers, hard drives and memory sticks. The communications equipment with inaccessible information has not been of much use in police investigations.
The targets were not identified before the operation, according to Richard Beck Pedersen, a police attorney and an Operation Marco Polo leader. He said the alleged drug dealers were able to hide themselves using technological camouflage since 2013.
Another challenge Kripos faced was tracking the money trail as the online drug dealers conducted most transactions in bitcoin. Most of the trading was done on dark web marketplaces, similar to the way the Tor network masked Silk Road users’ identities.
Olav Roisli, chief investigator, told Verdens Gang that tracking the money is hard since encrypted currency travels through several stages.
The dark web allowed the dealers to secure a large number of customers throughout Norway who did not have to actually visit the country to purchase drugs.
The investigation focused on the sellers, not the buyers, of drugs. The customers were mostly recreational drug users.
The young people buying the drugs would not have had access to them without the dark web.
The Operation Marco Polo investigations are expected to conclude by the end of summer.
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