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The Justice Department announced the arrest of 150 alleged darknet drug traffickers and other criminals in a global crackdown on the illicit sale of opioids and other drugs in a sweeping international law enforcement operation conducted across the United States, Australia, and Europe amid record-high drug overdose deaths in the U.S.
The operation, dubbed Operation Dark HunTor, was conducted through DOJ’s Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team in coordination with Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre and other foreign law enforcement agencies and was announced on Tuesday by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, European counterparts, and other law enforcement officials.
“We are here today to expose those who seek the shadows of the internet to peddle killer pills worldwide,” Monaco said, adding, “There is no dark internet. We can and we will shine a light.”
Monaco said the drugs seized in the operation “contained enough fentanyl for four million lethal doses” as she pointed to her “One Pill Can Kill” campaign. The seizures included “fake pills which are often laced with fentanyl or methamphetamine.” The deputy attorney general said that “since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever have turned to the DarkNet for drugs” and lamented the “ongoing opioid crisis plaguing our communities.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced earlier this month that the 12-month time period from March 2020 to March 2021 saw a record-high number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S., with 96,779 such reported deaths across the country in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated significant economic and social disruptions. The CDC said that there are 99,106 predicted drug overdose deaths. This number represents a roughly 30% increase in the number of drug overdose deaths in the previous yearlong period. Opioids accounted for the highest number of overdose deaths, followed by synthetic opioids (such as fentanyl), excluding methadone.
The U.S. murder rate also increased nearly 30% in 2020, according to the FBI, the largest percentage increase in modern U.S. history, with almost 5,000 more murders last year than the year before adding up to 21,570 total, though the rate is still down from the heights reached during the violent 1990s.
The Justice Department said Tuesday that Operation Dark HunTor “builds on the success of last year’s Operation DisrupTor and the coordinated law enforcement takedown earlier this year of DarkMarket, the world’s then-largest illegal marketplace on the Darknet.”
DOJ said Operation Dark HunTor “resulted in the arrest of 150 alleged Darknet drug traffickers and other criminals who engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods and services across Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.” DOJ said the operation “resulted in the seizure of over $31.6 million in both cash and virtual currencies” as well as approximately 234 kilograms of drugs worldwide including 152.1 kilograms of amphetamine, 21.6 kilograms of cocaine, 26.9 kilograms of opioids, 32.5 kilograms of MDMA, and “more than 200,000 ecstasy, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methamphetamine pills, and counterfeit medicine.”
Prosecutors said the operation led to 65 arrests across the U.S., one in Bulgaria, three in France, 47 in Germany, four in Italy, four in the Netherlands, two in Switzerland, and 24 in the United Kingdom.
When asked, Monaco acknowledged the role played by China in the opioid crisis in the U.S.
“We know that precursor chemicals that go into these pills are coming from labs in China and are manufactured in Mexico,” Monaco said, adding, “You can expect us to continue to press our international counterparts, to press countries like China, to press countries like Mexico, to make sure that these labs cannot operate from their countries and send deadly pills to our country.”
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Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy
Original Location: DOJ announces 150 arrests in darknet opioid trafficking crackdown