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Netherlands Police Bust Darknet Trafficking Group

In 2015, law enforcement in the Netherlands arrested three suspects in connection with a cannabis growing operation in the province of Friesland. More than two years later, Friesland detectives completed an investigation that led to to the arrest of the same three suspects for operating a massive darknet ecstasy and marijuana trafficking operation. Over 150 police officers raided 10 houses and businesses in Sneek. During the raids, the Netherlands police seized bitcoin, euros, 13 cars, and seven buildings, among other various pieces of evidence.

The trio first aroused suspicion in March 2015 when police had discovered their growhouse in Sneek. During a followup financial investigation, the investigators discovered that the men had amassed more than $400,000 in the form of Bitcoin. Later on, after the investigation had seemingly hit a quiet spell, evidence arose that implicated one of the suspects in the trafficking of various “hard drugs.” Police raided his house, arrested him, and seized more than 65,000 ecstasy pills. An official statement announced that police knew the suspects had received payment for their ecstasy and marijuana in bitcoin.

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This led to yet another investigation into the group and a suspected drug trafficking and money laundering organization. The arrests in late October and early November came from an investigation that began in January 2017.

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By October, undercover officers had unveiled much of this secretive drug trafficking organization that had distributed drugs both internationally through the darknet and locally, on occasion. A local transaction led to the ultimate downfall. Undercover officers and one of the drug traffickers arranged a large ecstasy deal on the darknet. The police wanted 15,000 pills. Although the deal was arranged on the darknet, the cops met and paid the vendor in an apartment in the Netherlands. There, they bought 15,000 pills, but instead of arresting the dealer, the police let the dealer go free.

Police spokesman Sylvia Sanders said that they frequently go after darknet vendors and arrest the vendor after completing an investigation into the vendor’s internet activity. “Usually, we immediately pick up the suspect, but in this case we have not consciously chosen that,” Sanders says. “We wanted to get the big boss.”

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And only days later, Netherlands police caught “the big boss.” A total of 150 police officers raided homes and searched a commercial garage in Sneek. Officers arrested the first two suspects—a 31-year-old and a 33-year-old—by the mid-afternoon. The officers caught a 32-year-old suspect later that afternoon. According to a report from Netherlands police, the suspects had kept very few drugs at the locations searched by police. Officers discovered 50 grams of a “white powder.”

Authorities seized 13 vehicles that belonged to the three suspects arrested that day. They also seized 150,000 euros and seven buildings under the name of the 33-year-old’s brother. The suspects have been charged with drug trafficking and money laundering, both on a large scale. The investigation is ongoing and the police expect many more arrests as the case unfolds.

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