A multi-agency joint operation consisting of Eurojust, Europol, Dutch and German authorities dismantled a darknet drug trafficking ring that operated from Germany and the Netherlands. The ring was allegedly made up of 13 members, 12 of which were arrested on completion of the operation. According to a Eurojust press release, the ring sold a variety of drugs through the darknet where they took orders, received payment in bitcoin, and delivered the drugs to their customers worldwide through German post offices and mail boxes located on the German-Dutch border.
The 13 membered gang had allegedly rented apartments in Germany and the Netherlands. In the Netherlands apartment, the group reportedly prepared the drug packages for delivery by labelling and packaging accordingly. On completion of preparation of the drug packages, some of the members were charged with moving the drugs to Germany across the border by car on a daily basis. After transporting the drugs to Germany, the gang would then mail the drugs to their clients worldwide using German post offices and mailboxes located near the Netherlands border.
As the gang’s operations expanded, German authorities took notice of the drug packages, and the Public Prosecutor in Munster launched an investigation against the gang in September 2018. The nature of the gang’s operation and interest from both the Dutch and German authorities necessitated the formation of a joint front in the investigations. As a result, the joint operation was formed in November 2018 and brought together the Dutch Specialized Prosecution Office for Fraud and Environmental Crime, the Dutch Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD), the German Public Prosecutor’s Office, Munster, and the German Customs Office. These authorities collected and shared evidence against the drug trafficking ring. Europol offered forensic analysis in the course of the investigation while Eurojust funded the operation and provided legal support to the involved authorities.
As the investigation against the gang intensified custom authorities continued to seize drug packages; in total, the customs seized drugs worth over 400,000 Euros. The drugs seized in the course of the investigation alone include 25 kilograms of amphetamine, 145 grams of heroin, 170 grams of cocaine, 1.6 grams of MDMA and 1.1 kilograms of ecstasy pills.
The joint investigation provided an opportunity for the German and Dutch authorities to share high-value intelligence information. The shared information, plus tips from the public, led the authorities to the identity of the gang members. The information also helped the investigators discover the locations of apartments that the ring operated from both in the Netherlands and Germany. As the investigation neared its conclusion, involved detectives seized a car used by the gang to move the drugs across the Netherlands and Germany border. The gang allegedly used the spare wheel area as a hiding spot for the drugs.
On February 1, the agents involved in the investigation raided nine properties in the German-Dutch border region – two in Germany and seven in the Netherlands. The raid resulted in the seizure of 40 kilograms of amphetamine, 1 kilogram of ecstasy pills, an undisclosed number of mobile phones and computers and documents suspected to include details of the gang’s sales. The raid also resulted in the seizure of 10,000 Euros in cash. During the raids, 12 people believed to be members of the gang were arrested.
According to released statements, three of the arrested suspects, a 31 years old Afghanistan citizen who lived in Enschede, his 27 year old brother, and a 33 year old Dutch citizen from Enschede, were in charge of processing orders and preparing the drug packages.
Reports from German authorities disclosed that five of the arrested suspects are set to face pre-trial detention hearing in Germany. German authorities are also set to apply for the extradition of four of the suspects from the Netherlands. Apart from drug trafficking, the arrested gang members will be charged with money laundering their profits using bitcoin.
Further investigations on the ring’s operations are ongoing in attempt to gather more evidence against the gang members. Devices and documents seized from the gang will be examined for valuable information that may offer leads to other suspects including some of the ring’s clients.