According to information obtained by Berliner Morgenpost, the Berlin-Brandenburg Customs Office may have identified as many as 1,500 darknet drug customers in a single operation. The investigation itself, the newspaper reported, has already been completed. By the time the paper had learned of the investigation, the prosecution had already started preparing charges.
Internet specialists and digital forensic experts of the Berlin-Brandenburg Customs Investigation Office seemingly worked the case in unison. They worked the case silently too; whispers of the investigation only reached the press before suspected drug buyers received letters in the mail regarding darknet drug purchases. Even though the investigation had already been completed, Customs Investigators refused to give Berliner Morgenpost any technical details about the case or investigation.
Somehow, the Customs Office intercepted a significant quantity of unknown drugs that ultimately resulted in the identification of 1,500 suspected customers of a “darknet drug ring.” The investigators hunted down the origin of the drug shipments. The information conveyed through the Berliner Morgenpost indicated that the Customs Investigators had conducted an investigation that targeted the dealer or supplier of the drugs.
Their investigation proved successful and yielded results in the form of one of the largest crackdowns on darknet drug buyers in recent history. The recent Netherlands operation likely took second place in this ranking, given that the nationwide ‘knock-and-talk’ resulted in only two immediate arrests. The third seat at that table is up for grabs. United States law enforcement would probably like to claim it, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Operation Disarray led to nothing but failure. The FBI, in one conversation with a news outlet, explained they had only knocked on a couple of doors.
Sessions attempted to take credit for eight arrests connected to darknet marketplaces, but the evidence indicated that the operation had nothing to do with the arrests. If Berlin Customs can turn even a fraction of those 1,500 names into convictions, they will have accomplished something likely unparalleled by outside law enforcement agencies. It would be unrealistic to assume that courts would prosecute all 1,500 of suspected buyers; the FBI’s Operation Pacifier only led to—according to their own figures—900 arrests worldwide. And in the United States, the number of Pacifier convictions is likely far less than 100.
This number of identified targets fits the profile of a small marketplace or established darknet vendor. Given that the customs investigators intercepted packages and worked their way back to the supplier, they most likely caught a vendor with a sizeable customer base. Of course, they could have traced the packages back to a vendor who operated his or her own marketplace. Only time will tell.