An avalanche of Interpol-led law enforcement operations in 116 countries has led to the seizure of a staggering 500 tons of counterfeit drugs available online.
The outcome of these raids illuminated the fact that a host of the seized drug packages, including consignments of counterfeit pills, syringes and pharmaceutical substances, were destined for sale via the dark web.
Interpol made the announcement in what was considered to be the second largest drug enforcement event in recent months.
The operation, codenamed Pangea XI, targeted worldwide drug hotspots and led to the arrest of 859 suspects. The entire event busted a supply of narcotics with a street value of $14 million.
Interpol went further to reveal that the organization had, pursuant to the drug seizures, shut down a host of dark web networks that aimed to distribute the illegal drugs.
The bulk of these networks originated from approximately 3,671 web links that supported several social media pages and darknet markets.
This operation was established by Interpol in 2008, to fight the trade in illegal substances online.
So far, the initiative has grown in scale and scope to assume a transboundary position about international drug enforcement affairs that affect hundreds of countries.
Specifically, Operation Pangea was created with the idea of “words into action” in mind.
This concerned activities that highlighted dangers of buying medicines online, and its ramifications on the entire pharmaceutical industry.
Since its inception, the annual operation has effectively pooled multi-stakeholder efforts in targeting the three main elements that keep the illicit dark web trade running—Internet Service Providers (ISPs), payment systems and delivery services.
The illicit trade of controlled substances online has become a popular phenomenon in recent years.
The dark web has provided a suitable platform for drug dealers to ply their trade under the noses of law enforcement agencies.
While police departments have progressively closed a number of notorious darknet marketplaces, dark web criminals have continuously endeavored to evolve and circumvent the long arm of the law.
Diversification of the darknet-supported drug trade has led to the increase in popularity of counterfeit medicines.
Right now, fake pharmaceuticals are a huge phenomenon in the dark web world.
Experts provide that about 1 percent of pharmaceuticals available in developing countries are fake.
In the global sense, this figures is seen to soar to a disturbing 10 percent, with some regions taking up 30 percent of the entire share.
At this point, it is important to note that the institution of counterfeiting extends further than the spectrum of “lifestyle” drugs.
This mean that medicines that are deemed “life-saving” in nature, including drugs that target several types of cancers and heart diseases, are being tampered with.
In addition, fake medical devices are also a concern, as expressed by the outcomes of Operation Pangea XI.
The dark web drug trade, in particular, owns a significant share in the fake syringe market.
Medicines and medical devices, mainly syringes, have become a common commodity on darknet markets.
Studies highlight the fact that these items are largely counterfeit and pose monumental harm to its eventual users.
This aspect stems from the fact that darknet platforms have long provided an unregulated trading channel that stays clear of the police radar.
It is for this reason that organizations such as Interpol have stepped up to target darknet platforms and their networks.
Quick Analysis: Is Interpol the Ultimate Darknet Whip?
Interpol seems to fully acknowledge the dangers of a darknet-fueled drug ecosystem across the globe.
The organization considers dark web sites as a major threat to law enforcement and a critical enabler of illegal activities across international borders.
Thus, telling by Interpol’s interventions towards solving the dark web quagmire, the agency has been pivotal in the fight against the proliferation of platforms that support the illegal sale of drugs online.
A Cascade of Drug Busts
In 2017, Interpol led an ambitious anti-drug operation dubbed “Operation Lionfish III,” which targeted maritime smugglers of controlled items.
These items ranged from drugs to weapons that were being moved across many regions.
Particularly, the operation focused on about 34 countries, including 20 nations in the Caribbean.
In the end, the entire operation led to the arrest of 142 people and the seizure of items worth thousands of dollars.
The raids occurred between May and June 2017.
Just recently, between September and October, Interpol executed a series of drug busts that led to the confiscation of more than 55 tons of drugs and other illicit items.
The worldwide operation targeted about 93 countries and led to the apprehension of 1,300 suspects.
Another major milestone was the seizure of 18 million tablets of “Yaba,” a synthetic drug, in what was seen as one of the most thorough drug operations in the recent past.
Indexing Darknet Sites
Back in 2015, Interpol convened a meeting that brought together leaders of the organization’s European, Asian and Oceanian units.
The purpose of the convention was to chart strategies in combating cybercrime and tying the same to the entire ecosystem of law enforcement.
The outcomes of the meeting begot regional plans that aimed to target illicit drug trade in the darknet space, among other illegal activities, and also highlighted the Interpol-led indexing of 20,000 darknet sites.
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