15 people were arrested in what Norway is calling their biggest drug bust ever to target dark net.
The case originated in the FBI’s 2013 closure of Silk Road. American authorities were able to access a list of sellers and clients names. Among the names were hundreds of Norwegian traders who operated on Silk Road. The operators also traded under aliases from other markets, that were linked back to the user names on Sink Road.
Kripos, Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service started Operation Marco Polo. It was the nations first, and biggest operation against organized drug crime on the dark net. VG reported this week that the operation resulted in 15 people being arrested, included were five men suspected of being the biggest on-line Norwegian drug dealers.
“These men were not very well known by the police beforehand,” Richard Beck Pendersen, one of the leaders of Operation Marco Polo said.
Pedersen stated that all five of the alleged drug kingpins had been using comprehensive technological camouflage since starting in 2013. “The technology used by the suspects to hide themselves has been and still is the investigations biggest problem.”
Kripos also uncovered 150 marijuana plants in the basement of a house in Skien after a long period of monitoring dark net activity. They also confiscated over 80 communications devices including computers, hard drives, as well as memory sticks. Due to the high quality of the encryption however, most of the evidence has thus far been of little value to investigators.
One of the biggest set backs for Kripos, and Operation Marco Polo has been following the money trail; as most of the transactions have been made using Bitcoin.
“It is a challenge because the encrypted currency stream goes through several stages specifically designed to keep you from tracking the money, that is designed to not be found,” investigation leader Olav Roisli said.
Pedersen and Roisli said that many of the buyers are young recreational users who normally would have limited access to a physical drug marketplace. If it weren’t for the accessibility of the dark net shops, they said, the youth may have never bought any drugs.
“Not everyone will come in the way to Oslo in order to buy drugs. Now they can sit at home and order the dope directly to their mailbox. This way, the sellers can reach an enormous group of clients in every corner of the country,” Roisli stated.
Marco Polo investigations are still ongoing and are expected to end before summer.