Earlier this month, Germany and the Netherlands worked together in an operation to shut down an international crime ring that had been running on the dark web.
The members of the crime group were allegedly involved in money laundering and drug trafficking.
The joint operation involved two German agencies including Münster (the Public Prosecutor’s Office) and the Customs’ Investigations Office.
There were also two Netherlands-based organizations—the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigations Office and the Specialized Prosecution Office for Fraud and Environmental Crime.
Additionally, Europol worked with Eurojust to aid in the investigations.
Investigations into the crime ring began in September 2018. The investigating team revealed information regarding the group’s membership, reportedly including 13 members—many of which were of Dutch and Afghan origin.
The investigations further brought to light the logistics of the alleged criminal activities. The group members in the Netherlands would prepare envelopes and parcels, which they then sent to Germany.
Once the packages arrived, the suspects in Germany would allegedly mail them to clients from different parts of the world.
The inquiry team also found that the crime syndicate used the dark web for its trade.
The clients would make their orders online and pay for the goods they received in the form of cryptocurrency, particularly paysafecards and Bitcoin.
A new joint investigation team came to life in November 2018, which advanced the inquiry. The joint team enabled national law enforcement agencies to collect and share evidence and information securely.
This team received financial support from Eurojust, which also aided in the coordination of operational and judicial activities. Europol further assisted by providing a mobile office for use in the investigations, as well as forensic support.
Once the authorities had sufficient information regarding the crime ring, they conducted a crackdown.
The police confiscated drugs worth more than €400,000—evidence they used to further advance the probe. The drugs included MDMA, amphetamines, ecstasy, heroin and cocaine.
On February 1, 2019, the agents searched 10 premises, both residential and business, at the border between the Netherlands and Germany.
They found 1 kg of ecstasy, 40 kg of amphetamine, computers, mobile phones, documents along with cash amounting to €10,000.
The crackdown led to the arrest of 12 suspects. Four of the arrests were under European arrest warrants.
Besides drug trafficking, the police also suspect that the accused may have been part of a money laundering scheme.
The investigations are still ongoing, as Europol reported. The agency claimed that the data authorities had obtained from cryptocurrency and dark web accounts are under evaluation by experts.
Drug Trafficking in Germany and the Netherlands
The Netherlands police in early 2018 warned that the nation is increasingly fulfilling “narco-state” characteristics.
The authorities reported that there had been an increase in the number of drug empires in the country, which further led to a rise in the incidents of drug-related murders.
Besides, Dutch law enforcement acknowledged that most of the ecstasy in Europe and across the United States was sourced from the country.
Additionally, half of the cocaine in the E.U. reportedly enters Europe through Rotterdam, a major port city in South Holland.
In April 2018, the police in Germany took down a global drug ring that operated in Düsseldorf.
The authorities revealed that the drug ring began in 2016 and had been smuggling drugs (mostly cocaine and methamphetamine) into different areas of the world such as Japan, Australia and North America.
The police reported that the gang started with eight members. However, after the crackdown, agents arrested 40 suspects allegedly involved in the drug ring.
In June 2018, Europol assisted in another operation involving Dutch, Polish and German authorities.
They were successful in raiding a drug ring that operated in the three countries. Over 300 officers took part in the raid.
The members of this drug ring allegedly smuggled chemicals from Poland, through Germany, to the Netherlands.
The authorities reported that the substances were possible ingredients of drugs such as methamphetamine, MDMA and amphetamines.
By the end of the crackdown, the authorities had managed to seize large amounts of chemicals, weapons and stolen vehicles.
They also shut down several drug production labs and arrested the members of the syndicate.
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