The Spanish Civil Guard, Austrian Police, and Europol conducted an operation that led to one of the largest drug busts in the EU, according to a recent announcement from the numerous law enforcement agencies involved in the operation. The investigation, as revealed on the Civil Guard’s website, was conducted under the framework of ”Operation DRYER” and involved several years of work from international law enforcement agencies.
Although the Civil Guard and Europol have referred to the case as a darknet one, many suspect the targeted drug trafficking syndicate functioned as one of the largest clearnet “research chemical” dealers with their own online storefronts. With that said, many of the drugs seized in the bust—such as the 800,000 LSD tabs mentioned by the Civil Guard and Europol—have not been considered research chemicals in years. Those still involved in the research chemical community will likely notice the absence of a major dealer who sold only to select customers. It is very likely an organization of this size described by the police had a role in drug distribution through every possible channel.
The press release explained that the investigation began in 2015 after German authorities seized a series of drug packages that contained unspecified New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). The police intercepted packages and eventually learned that a large criminal organization had been mailing them to customers in hundreds of countries.
German police, in an unrelated operation, recently seized 50,000 LSD tabs.
Over time, the Spanish Civil Guard learned that the organization had roots in Spain and Austria. They knew that the organization had a lab in the Netherlands that received bulk supplies from labs in China. Based on the chemicals intercepted, the investigators learned that very few sources on the internet offered such a wide range of products. The press release pointed out that the authorities had seized or intercepted more than 100 substances. Authorities have not yet identified all of the seized compounds.
During Operation DRYER, the police infiltrated private drug shops—both on the clearnet and darknet—that catered only to invited customers (do not let the sound of a private club fool you; at least one of these shops sold to a massive number of people). Investigators found that many of the customers bought in bulk for their own redistribution on the darknet or in their own private stores.
Earlier this year, Austrian police and the Spanish Civil Guard conducted coordinated raids against labs and buildings in Spain and Austria. They only arrested eight suspects. However, they seized historical quantities of drugs, Bitcoin, property, and other assets. They seized two labs valued at 12 million euros; more than 112 kilograms of narcotics packaged in 250 mg and 500 mg containers; more than $200,000 in synthesis reactors, chromatographs, and other lab equipment; almost five million dollars in Bitcoin, Iota, and Lumen; three homes; and 10 vehicles.
The investigation is ongoing and technical details have not been released.