During a global law enforcement crackdown, a 22-year-old man was charged for running a market website on the dark web. According to the police, Victoria University students set up the site to trade drugs.
The action was performed during a global law enforcement sting called Operation Hyperion. Police arrested six persons so far and sent 66 formal warnings.
The 22-year-old is accused of running the Vic Underworld (changed to NZ Underworld later) site on the dark net. The dark web market is now defunct, however, it was compared to the infamous Silk Road marketplace when it was online. Police received information from a student at Victoria in July 2015 who anonymously spoke to Dominion Post and helped authorities catch the suspects. When the site was running, vendors mostly sold party drugs, painkillers and fake pharmaceutical scripts to customers. The 22-year-old will stand before Wellington District Court on Friday.
Operation Hyperion also resulted in police and customs seizing small amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, alpha-PVP – known to users as “bath salts” –, LSD, ecstasy, and cannabis seeds in New Zealand. Police warned dark net users that on Tuesday “there were more visits to come”.
Hyperion focused mostly on dark net narcotics vendors, snapping packages arrived to mail centers, and then tracking them back to buyers and sellers.
According to national high-tech crime group manager Kelly Knight, the 160 people law enforcement authorities have questioned were among almost 300 people identified as being involved in illegal dark web trade.
“The clear message for people who think they can use the internet to buy illegal drugs and get away with it is that they can’t,” Knight said. “These sites are not top secret. Police can view them, and together with Customs, we can track packages down to addresses and individuals.”
Recently, the Dutch National Prosecution Service and Police launched a hidden site on the dark web as part of Operation Hyperion. The website warns dark net market users that law enforcement authorities in the Netherlands are allegedly screening them. Police listed three categories: active vendors, arrested vendors, and identified buyers. The buyers’ usernames are not shown totally due to privacy issues.
Dutch law enforcement authorities also included a FAQ on their website. They provide information on the potential punishment for both dark net buyers and vendors.
“If you are a resident of the Netherlands and you bought a small user’s quantity of drugs, no legal action will be taken right now,” a statement reads. “If you bought larger quantities of drugs, or took up other goods or services, then it is possible an investigation will be initiated.”
Authorities claim they have identified a “couple of hundreds” dark net users at the moment. The website of the Dutch police can be accessed both on the Tor network (http://politiepcvh42eav.onion ) or via clearnet.
It is a question though whether authorities in the country have made a big progress in the crackdown on the dark net narcotics trade or they just want to scare users from accessing dark web markets.