Source: Nnworeport

WASHINGTON D.C.: The U.S. Justice Department has announced that American and European law enforcement officials arrested 150 people and seized more than $31.6 million after a 10-month international drug trafficking investigation involving drug sales on the darknet.

The darknet is an encrypted area of the internet accessible only through specialized tools that ensure anonymity, most notably using the Tor browser.

The arrests were made following a joint investigation by federal law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Europol in Europe.

Prosecutors said the arrested suspects are responsible for thousands of illegal drug sales in the U.S., UK, Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

During the raids, cash and virtual currencies worth over $31.6 million were seized, along with 45 guns, the Justice Department reported.

Investigators also recovered illegal drugs, including more than 152 kilograms of amphetamines, 21 kilograms of cocaine and 32.5 kilograms of ecstasy, as well as counterfeit medications and opioid pills, prosecutors added.

Those arrested include 65 people in the U.S., 47 in Germany, 24 in the UK, four in Italy, four in the Netherlands, three in France, two in Switzerland and one in Bulgaria.

Investigators discovered darknet vendors had laboratories in their homes that produced fake pills laced with fentanyl, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs, which were designed to look like prescription pain killers, Deputy U.S. Attorney-General Lisa Monaco said.

Drug dealers who use the darknet, and are fueling the ongoing opioid crisis, were targeted by the operation, she added.

The Justice Department said its investigation is continuing and it is trying to identify other individuals behind related darknet accounts.

The rise in opioid sales on the darkent during the COVID-19 pandemic has especially concerned investigators.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have turned to the darknet than ever before to buy drugs,” Monaco noted.