According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Zurich, a “very complex” investigation led to the seizure of three of the most popular dark web vendors in Switzerland. The investigation led to the arrest of five individuals suspected of drug trafficking. According to the announcement found on the Public Prosecutor’s Office website, the Cantonal Police of Zurich helped arrest all five suspected drug traffickers on August 6, 2018.
Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, the press release explained, the Public Prosecutor’s Office could only go into so much detail before revealing information pertinent to the Investigation into the co-conspirators that may or may not in fact exist. The Zurich Public Prosecutor’s Office explained that the investigation led to the identification of “a group of offenders.” The five they reportedly arrested qualified as a group, but the announcement indicated that the police had their eyes on more than only the five suspected dealers in custody.
The operation yielded several kilograms of cocaine and a single kilogram of MDMA. Authorities reported that the vendors had been selling “kilogram amounts” of illegal substances. One of the arrested vendors—the top vendor in Switzerland—sold exclusively cocaine on the Dream marketplace.
This investigation required a close cooperation between the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Zurich, the Cantonal Police of Zurich, a special Cybercrime Division of the Cantonal Police of Zurich, and a forensics and narcotics specialist from both the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Zurich and the Cantonal Police of Zurich. The Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that the takedowns were a first for Zurich law enforcement. Unless the busts went unannounced, this operation resulted in some of the only dark web vendor busts in Switzerland to date. There are some exceptions, such as the recently arrested police officer accused of helping a German vendor sell firearms and ammunition online.
In the aforementioned case, though, German law enforcement—known worldwide for their persistence with regard to dark web gun vendors—launched the investigation. That had been investigating a dark web gun dealer in Germany who had been receiving guns and ammunition from an entity in Switzerland. The German investigators brought the information to police in Switzerland and the Swiss Police requested assistance from the German authorities. German authorities helped Swiss police narrow the list of suspects down until only one remained: the logistics chief of the cantonal police of Schwyz.
With the evidence collected by German authorities, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland charged the officer with violations of the War Material Act. Although the authorities failed to identify the source of his guns, they discovered that some of the ammunition many have come from the police department. That case is still developing, however. The most recent case, it appears, is Switzerland’s first completely in-house operation that led to the successful takedown of three dark web market accounts and five suspected dark web drug dealers.
Although the accounts never appeared in the press release, they stood out on Dream market. The Public Prosecutor’s Office of Zurich and the Cantonal Police of Zurich made statements with the seized accounts—all of which belonged to top 10 vendors in Switzerland. One of the three accounts belonged to the top seller in Switzerland, leaving several holes for the next dealer(s) to fill. The police have simply killed the competition.
The Zurich officials, not unlike moves other police forces have taken after successful dark web vendor busts, swapped the pictures on the vendors’ listings from pictures of the actual item for sale to pictures of a seizure notice. If the seizure notice failed to throw a user off and they still clicked the profile of one of the three seized accounts, they would see a message from Zurich authorities signed with the vendor’s own PGP key. A visit to the profile of any of the following vendors would reveal the message Zurich authorities have sent through the dark web market accounts: swiss-flakes, Happy-Olaf, and CH-Koks.
The message reads as follows (stripped of the signature and translated into English):
“The user account [Happy-Olaf] [swiss-flakes] [CH-Koks] and all data on the account was seized on August 7, 2018, by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Zurich. Identified customers and consumers of illegal narcotics will be contacted by the Cantonal Police of Zurich.”