400 sites on the dark web have been taken down in a joint operation involving the FBI, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Europol and Eurojust.
Among the sites reportedly taken down is Silk Road 2.0, an infamous site which allegedly facilitated the trade in illegal drugs, weapons and child pornography.
There have been 17 arrests worldwide including six in Britain, according to the National Crime Agency.
The European Cybercrime Centre – acting on intelligence developed by US investigators –took out technical infrastructure which is key to the hosting of illegal market places on the dark web. In total over 400 dark web sites were taken down.
The six people arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of controlled drugs were a 20-year-old man from Liverpool city centre, a 19-year-old man from New Waltham, Lincolnshire; a 30-year-old man from Cleethorpes; a 29-year-old man from Aberdovey, Wales; a 58-year-old man from Aberdovey, Wales; and a 58-year-old woman from Aberdovey, Wales. All six were interviewed and have been bailed pending further enquiries.
A large amount of computer equipment was seized at all the addresses searched and will now be forensically examined.
The action yesterday by the NCA and partners across Europe and America is part of continuing operations to target the use of online market places to trade in illegal commodities such as class A drugs, firearms and false documents. Anyone who tries to access Silk Road 2.0 will now see a notice highlighting the site has been seized.
Roy McComb, Deputy Director of the National Crime Agency, said: “Over the months since the original Silk Road was taken down, we have been working with partners in the US and Europe to locate technical infrastructure, key to the dark web and to investigate individuals suspected of significant involvement in illegal online market places. Those arrested by the NCA in this phase of the operation are suspected of setting up Silk Road 2.0, or of being significant vendors of illegal drugs.
“The operation is ongoing and more arrests can be expected as we continue to investigate those involved in setting up and profiting from these illegal market places. Criminals like to think that the dark web provides a safe, anonymous haven but in reality this is just like any other organised crime network. It may take time and effort to investigate and build a criminal case, but we are determined to identify and prosecute people caught dealing drugs and committing serious crime using the dark web.”