With guns drawn, law enforcement in Slovakia have arrested an alleged administrator of a dark web marketplace specialising in the sale of drugs and weapons. In coordination with Europol, the European Union (EU) agency, the underground website has since been seized.
Dramatic footage released this week (4 May) shows a number of balaclava-wearning armed men with the National Crime Agency of the Slovakia Police Force rushing out of a van and quickly approaching the suspect – guns pointed – as he sits in a vehicle.
In a statement, Europol said searches of the suspect's property uncovered five firearms and approximately 600 rounds of ammunition of different calibres.
The investigators found a "sophisticated" cannabis plantation, 58 cannabis plants and a Bitcoin wallet containing bitcoins worth €203,000 (£172,000).
The identity of the suspect has not yet been released.
Authorities have also keep quiet about the name of the dark web marketplace he reportedly operated.
Europol's statement did reveal the suspect had managed the website since 2015 and that at least 10 kg of cannabis had been purchased through the service.
Both Slovak authorities and Europol are believed to have now extended the probe into the users and vendors who utilised the marketplace.
"Europol supported Slovakia throughout the investigation by providing analytical and financial intelligence," a statement read.
"A crosscheck performed during the house searches generated a hit on Europol's databases which helped investigators identify a darknet vendor living in another EU country. The individual was suspected of supplying one of the firearms found during house searches in Bratislava."
According to Aktualne, a media outlet covering the Czech Republic, drug peddling in Slovakia is increasingly being carried out on the dark web. It cited one government report that read: "When investigating illegal trade on the internet, international cooperation is essential."
Recently, Europol took part in a global operation against nearly 40 individuals suspected of exchanging child abuse material via smartphone services including WhatsApp. Investigators found over 90 groups distributing disturbing content among an invite-only membership.
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