U.S. Justice Department officials announced on Tuesday, Sept. 22, the results of a joint global operation between the United States and Europe to dismantle opioid trafficking on the dark web, which resulted in the arrest of 179 suspects, $6.5 million in cash and crypto-currency, and 500 kilograms of drugs seized, Fox News reported.

Operation DisrupTor, a Justice Department initiative led by the FBI, enlisted the cooperation of state and local agencies in the United States and Europe to combat an international network of illegal opioid sales on the dark web, a term used to refer to internet sites that can only be accessed with encrypted browsers that allow the anonymity of their users, with Tor being one of the best known.

This operation resulted in the seizure of more than $6.5 million in cash and virtual currency; approximately 500 kilograms of drugs worldwide; 274 kilograms of drugs, including fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, and drugs containing addictive substances in the United States; and 63 firearms, according to Officer.com

Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said, ” Criminals selling fentanyl on the darknet should pay attention to Operation DisrupTor. The arrest of 179 of them in seven countries—with the seizure of their drug supplies and their money as well—shows that there will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray added, ” With the spike in opioid-related overdose deaths during the COVID-19 [CCP Virus] pandemic, we recognize that today’s announcement is important and timely. … The FBI wants to assure the American public, and the world, that we are committed to identifying darknet drug dealers and bringing them to justice.”

According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018 alone there were 31,000 deaths from fentanyl overdoses. 

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released a report in February 2017 stating that fentanyl is produced and exported from China to the United States, and that the Chinese Communist Party has allowed the synthetic drug to flood the country, mainly because it is cheaper to produce than morphine or heroin. Producers and traffickers in Mexico also receive the drug or chemicals to produce it and introduce it to the United States, the report detailed.

DisrupTor derived from another successful FBI operation in 2019 in which they dismantled the Wall Street Market, and Amazon for selling drugs, arms, and false documents with more than 1 million users, according to france24.com

The operation lasted nine months and involved the DEA (The United States Drug Enforcement Administration), the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Border Protection Service (CBP) among others. Arrests and investigations in Europe were supported by Europol in Germany, Holland, Great Britain, and Sweden. 

The DEA official explained in his statement how complex it is today to track these operations given the level of technology with which the criminals move, but assured that the success of DisrupTor demonstrates that the joint cooperation of all these agencies and organizations can find these criminals no matter where they are.