(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel )
DRIEBERGEN, Netherlands (AP) — It was an unexpected knock on the door for those who allegedly bought drugs anonymously — so they thought — on a darknet market.
The police and federal agents in the Netherlands and the United States paid unannounced visits, Wednesday and Thursday to almost 100 people who they say are drug buyers, the Hansa Market, an online bazaar are active in the “darknet”, an anonymity-friendly internet underworld to be used for the illegal trade and that is not accessible to standard browsers.
The alleged buyers’ identity became known to law enforcement authorities if the Dutch cyber-investigators in the secret took over the site in June and acted as its board members, the collection of usernames and passwords and the registration of data about thousands of drug sales.
The Dutch police said that they visited 37 alleged buyers this week and arrested one person over the weekend on suspicion of purchase of 150 ecstasy pills on the darknet. Their American colleagues focused around 50 others.
“You can sit in the United States buying drugs on the dark web from another country, and you may think that it is safe to do so and the message is not safe,” Kevin Scully, the Regional Director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, told The Associated Press ahead of the so-called “knock and talk” activities. “You can’t evade prosecution and you can’t evade enforcement of the law by the use of the dark web. You can be identified.”
The AMERICAN Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last year that more than two-thirds of the quarter of a million entries on the Hansa Market and AlphaBay, another darknet market that was taken shortly before Hansa, were for illegal drugs. Other illegal were for sale included weapons, false and stolen identification and malware.
The public prosecutor will decide whether to press the cost for the buyers.
Scully said this week’s action was mainly to public opinion more than to make arrests.
“Buying drugs on the internet is not safe, and we want to make sure that people stop doing it,” he said. “It is illegal and not safe.”