Dutch Police Seize 10,000 Ecstasy Pills in Dark Web Vendor Raid
An investigation led by German customs investigators led to the arrest of a suspected dark web drug trafficker in the Netherlands. Authorities have accused the suspect of selling various illegal substances in at least 3,000 separate instances.
The Customs Investigation Office in Frankfurt announced the arrest of a 32-year-old Dutch citizen for allegedly violating an assortment of drug crimes. According to the announcement, the Customs Investigation Office has been investigating the suspected drug trafficker since the summer of 2018. After the Customs investigators had gathered enough evidence to attribute the criminal activity to a single actor, they worked alongside additional investigators from the Central Contact Point Cybercrime (ZAC) in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Customs Investigation Office launched the investigation into a dark web ecstasy vendor but soon learned that the suspected vendor had a more diverse portfolio than they had originally suspected.
Not long after launching the investigation into the source of a number of seized packages, the German investigators learned that the suspected dark web vendor lived in the Netherlands. Officials with the Customs Investigation Office in Frankfurt reached out to law enforcement in the Netherlands in an effort to use the resources of Dutch investigators. German Customs investigators initiated the investigation as a response to a number of seized packages or drugs. Investigators learned that the packages had been shipped from post offices in the German city of Kleve. Upon further investigation, though, the investigators learned that the suspected vendor had no residence in Kleve or elsewhere in Germany.
Dutch authorities joined the investigation after German investigators learned that the suspected vendor seemingly had no home in Kleve. Instead, not unlike a significant number of recently arrested Dutch dark web vendors in unrelated cases, the suspected vendor allegedly travelled from his home or workshop in the Netherlands to Kleve, Germany, to mail packages of drugs. According to the announcement from German Customs, the alleged dark web vendor shipped packages to customers worldwide. The majority of the customers identified by the authorities lived in Germany, though.
German authorities identified the suspected vendor “despite the anonymization provided by the dark web,” according to a joint press release from the Cologne Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Customs Investigation Office in Frankfurt. The Central Contact Point Cybercrime played an essential role in the investigation. The specifics of their role, however, were not revealed to public. The method they used to deanonymize the vendor was described in the press release as a “tactical investigation measure.” The “tactical investigation method” led to live surveillance of the suspected drug dealer at his apartment and “holiday home” in the Netherlands. Investigators also watched the suspect travel from the Netherlands to Kleve, Germany, to mail packages of controlled substances.
On December 11, law enforcement in the Netherlands raided the suspected dark web vendor’s apartment and his so-called “holiday home.” Officials in Germany and in the Netherlands coordinated their operations on the day of the raids; police in the Netherlands alerted police in Germany once the suspected dark web vendor had left his home with packages of drugs in his car. German law enforcement waited for the suspect to drop off the packages in Kleve. When the Dutchman arrived with packages of drugs, German police placed him under arrest for violating an assortment of laws.
At the suspect’s apartment in the Netherlands, police found and seized several kilograms of drugs, more than 10,000 ecstasy pills, packaging material, lab equipment, and other related evidence. The apartment also housed a makeshift laboratory. According to the announcement from the Cologne Public Prosecutor’s Office, the police found nearly half the ecstasy pills stuffed inside a washing machine. A spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation that the press releases had not covered. The spokesperson pointed out that this case was of significance for several reasons. One of those reasons was the efficiency of the investigators; law enforcement in two countries worked together and caught a prolific dark web vendor in less than one year.
The investigation is ongoing, and investigators are likely attempting to identify some of the alleged vendor’s 3,300 customers.