Arrests in Limburg After Search into Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering on Dark Web
A long-running search and investigation by police in Limburg, Drenthe, and Overijssel have led to a total of five successful arrests last Tuesday on account of illegal drug production, drug trafficking, and money laundering on the dark web via cryptocurrencies, reported the police on Thursday.
The five suspects are a 52-year-old woman and a 54-year-old man both from Roermond, a 27-year-old man from Enschede, a 27-year-old man from Emmen, and a 29-year-old man from Hengelo. All the arrested suspects are linked to the same drug cartel manufacturing and trafficking controlled substances. Over fifty kilograms of hard illegal drugs and an XTC pill production machine were seized.
For a week, Limburg police tracked the movement of the man and woman from Roermond and realized that they lived together. After the police obtained a search warrant, they discovered that the couple had turned their house into a drug manufacturing, packaging and distribution center. Dozens of hand drugs containing XTC, heroin, amphetamine, and cocaine together with thousands of XTC tablets and 50 kilos of marijuana were seized.
According to the investigating agents, the search took a long time as they were not only focused on making arrests, but also on dismantling the whole chain of drug production, drug trafficking, and money laundering as well as locating criminal assets for confiscation. The lengthy search was also due to the nature of the investigation in the encrypted dark web marketplaces which is a new area of inquiry for most law enforcers.
Cryptophones and Encrypted App
The four locations, Roermond, Hengelo, Ensched, and Emmen, came up in the investigation after a special team of Dutch police professionals successfully intercepted an encrypted and secure phone communication among the members of the gang. ”We have successfully decrypted the encrypted phone messages among members of the criminal gang, collecting sufficient evidence to be used in court,” said Dutch police on Tuesday, ”This investigation has given us a clear insight into the modern criminal networks, especially on the dark web. We were also able to intercept drugs, money and weapons in the investigation.”
The police say the suspects communicated through cryptophones which offered secure communication through encrypted messaging. BlackBox and IronPhones, the handsets used in this case, are similar to smartphones but with reduced functionality. The handsets can only receive and send images and messages, and just to other cryptophones. To use the supposedly secure communication services, a subscription fee of €1500 is paid which expires in six months.
The Dutch police dismantled BlackBox, the encrypted messaging service provider, after seizing their servers. They were able to access and read over 258,000 messages sent to and from BlackBox users through a customized update of OTR messaging encrypted app called IronChat, offering end-to-end message encryption.
Investigation Still Underway
According to the police, investigation targeting more criminals is still ongoing following the decryption of the secure communication. The suspects are in custody under all restriction and can only communicate with their lawyers. The police declined to give further information on the case, saying that the investigation is still underway.
In total, over 25,000 euros in cash and in bitcoins were recovered. Five luxurious cars and expensive jewelry were also confiscated.