Andreas May, the Attorney General of Frankfurt, said that law enforcement authorities in Germany only arrest those darknet criminals who are “stupid”.
Dark web crime in Germany had seen a rapid increase in the past year. In recent months, law enforcement authorities in the country had arrested and prosecuted numerous criminals who were using the dark web to purchase illicit products, including counterfeit euro bills, weapons, drugs, but there was even a case where two suspects were detained for running a fake Microsoft support center. According to a research conducted by the Frankfurt Airport authorities, officials have found more narcotics arriving in the mail than at travelers entering the country. The research of the Frankfurt Customs Office claimed that the world of drug smuggling had changed from carrying the substances on a human body to shipping narcotics in mail. Authorities reported that they had seen a 232 percent increase in drug seizures by customs offices throughout Germany.
According to May, the share of darknet users residing in Germany is “disappointing”. Only about two to three percent of the dark web community are speaking German. The attorney general cited estimates that approximately 50 percent of the activities conducted on the dark web are illegal in some way. However, he also pointed out that the majority of these offenses have such “attributes” that the pursuit of the criminals would not be worthwhile in view of the effort involved.
May said that technically there is nothing much that law enforcement authorities can do to unmask darknet users, referring to the anonymity of the Tor network. The attorney general added that they only arrest criminals who are “stupid”. According to his experience, arms traders selling their products on the dark web are often “neither professionals nor criminal”.
“Often, we are dealing with very low-spirited people, who even meet with us personally, after whom we have ordered weapons. We then make use of the Leniency Notice,” May said.
The offer is – simply said – lesser punishment in exchange for accounts and shops. A large number of the criminals are willing to cooperate in further investigations, according to May.
“You can imagine – if they continue to operate the shops, we can collect their customers sooner or later,” the attorney general explained.
The attorney general pointed out that it is not possible for German authorities to disrupt the Tor Network or hack Tor nodes. However, investigators can go undercover. They could either disguise as potential buyers, or they can also create seller accounts on darknet marketplaces. In the latter case, law enforcement authorities advertise illicit products, such as firearms and ammunition, wait until someone conducts a successful transaction, and they arrest the criminal when he tries to retrieve the product from the post office.
“Here we have all possibilities to work with our conventional methods,” May said.
According to May, however, entering this gray area is “highly risky” for law enforcement authorities. The attorney general said that they have to document and prove everything they do during the investigation. Additionally, investigators also have to prove that they were adhering to the laws while performing undercover techniques on darknet criminals.