Illicit Crypto Transactions Targeted as Law Enforcement Seizes Dark-Web Marketplace


On May 2, Europol announced that law enforcement agencies worldwide had seized and closed down Monopoly Market, an illegal dark web marketplace, as part of their efforts to crack down on illicit cryptocurrency transactions.

The operation, known as SpecTor, resulted in the seizure of $53.4 million in cash and crypto and the arrest of 288 vendors who primarily sold drugs and firearms on Monopoly Market and other similar websites.

Of the 288 arrests, 153 were made in the US, 55 in the UK, and 52 in Germany, with one Californian man accounting for over $2 million worth of sales of methamphetamines and fentanyl. The remaining arrests were made in the Netherlands, Austria, France, Switzerland, Poland, and Brazil. Operation SpecTor involved law enforcement agencies from eight countries.

Europol stated that Operation SpecTor began in October 2021 and is part of the same efforts by law enforcement agencies that led to the seizure and closure of Hydra and Genesis Market in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Hydra was the largest illegal marketplace operating on the dark web, while Genesis was the largest identity theft market.

As with the operation against Hydra, German police initially seized the server infrastructure of Monopoly Market in December 2021 and began a “honey pot” operation in collaboration with Europol and other agencies worldwide. The operation targeted “high value” vendors supplying millions of dollars’ worth of illegal goods to multiple markets across the globe.

The US Justice Department described Operation SpecTor as an “unprecedented” enforcement action by a consortium of US and international law enforcement agencies against dark web drug markets and illicit crypto transactions.

During a press conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that the DoJ’s efforts to combat the fentanyl epidemic and the Sinaloa Cartel had revealed that criminals were increasingly turning to the dark web and selling drugs in exchange for cryptocurrencies. Garland added that the DoJ intended to pursue every criminal on the dark web, no matter where they tried to hide in the “farthest reaches of the internet.”

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