According to report, the Norway police’s largest ever online drug bust resulted in 15 arrests last month. According to the police, they nabbed fifteen people who traded drugs on the dark web.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.
Kripos, the National Criminal Investigation Service in Norway, launched an investigation under the code name “Operation Marco Polo” on the dark web. This turned out to be the largest operation to nab the perpetrators of organized drug crime in the country. An Oslo newspaper, Verdens Gang, reported that the sting operation culminated in the arrest of 15 people. Out the 15 arrested, it is believed that five men are the biggest online dealers of drugs in Norway.
The origin of the case can be traced to theSilk Roaddarknet site. The closure of the Silk Road marketplacein 2013 was attributed to the audacity of Ross Ulbricht (known by the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts), the founder of Silk Road, who posted his personal e-mail address in one of the forums.
Blake Benthall, who operated Silk Road 2.0 under the pseudonym Defcon, committed the same mistake when he registered a server in his own name. This enabled the U.S. authorities not only to shut down the operation of the Silk Road 2.0 site, but also to obtain a list of customers’ as well as vendors’ names. The list also contained the names of the Norwegian traders who made use of the Silk Road marketplace for selling drugs.
Norwegian operators used pseudonyms like “Kvalitetsbevisst,” “Alfa&Omega,” and “Deeplove” on different darknet marketsincluding Silk Road. The police has nabbed and indicted as many as 15 people – 13 men and two women – as part of the Marco Polo investigation since 2014. According to the authorities, the people who bought drugs from the dark web planned to sell them locally.
After a long period of monitoring darknet activities, the police were able to founda 150 marijuana plants in total in various stages of growth in the house’sbasement in Skien. In addition, the police confiscated over 80 communications devices. This included computers, memory sticks and hard drives. Information contained in some of these devices was inaccessibledue to high-quality encryptionand, therefore, were of not much use in police investigations.
Richard Beck Pedersen, who played a key role in Operation Marco Polo, said that the drug dealers could not be identified prior to the operation as the targets made use of technological camouflage right from 2013 to ensure anonymity.
Another challenge faced by Kripos was following the money trail. This is because the drug dealers accepted payment in bitcoins for the products they supplied. As the digital currency and the payment system are not backed by governments or banks, users carry out direct transactions and this makes things difficult for law enforcement agencies keep track of the movement of the cryptocurrency. Further, transactions were carried out on dark web under the hidden Tor network, which masked the identities of the Silk Road users.
According to Chief Investigator Olav Roisli, it is difficult to track money as there are several stages of transactions when digital currency is used. Further, the advantage of using the dark web was that it enabled the dealers to obtain a large customer base as the customers did not have to visit the country in order to purchase drugs.
The customers were mostly young people who used drugs for recreational purposes and usually have limited access to a physical drug market. Further, these youngsters who bought drugs would not have been able to get them without accessing the dark web.
It is expected that the Operation Marco Polo would be concluded before summer.