All over Europe, law enforcement agencies have performed actions against suspects who bought counterfeit Euro banknotes on illegal platforms on the Darknet. These actions, which have been co-ordinated by Europol, started on 19 November. The majority of the interventions took place from 3 to 6 December.
In total, almost 300 property searches were conducted in 13 different countries and 235 suspects subsequently detained. Law enforcement also seized around 1,500 counterfeit Euro banknotes. Drugs, weapons (firearms, nunchaku, illegal knives and blades), computers, mobile phones, Bitcoins and hardware for mining virtual currencies were also seized. In addition, German authorities discovered two marijuana growing facilities. In France, one additional illegal Euro counterfeit print shop and one cannabis plantation were discovered.
These joint actions are a direct result of a successful case handled by the Austrian Federal Criminal Police Office in June and supported by Europol. A print shop was dismantled in Leoben, central Austria and the producer of fake notes arrested. The suspect was making counterfeit 10, 20 and 50 Euro banknotes and sold them on several illegal Darknet marketplaces. Over 10,000 counterfeit banknotes were shipped to buyers all over Europe.
During the raid, the Austrian police found evidence of the man’s transactions and communicated this data to Europol. This information was analysed, enhanced and forwarded to all the affected countries. During an operational meeting at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague, the Member States decided to organise a co-ordinated action to achieve the best results possible.
180 house searches were carried out in Germany, 28 were performed in France, 20 in Italy and 20 in Austria. Actions also took place in Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Investigations in several countries are still ongoing.
This joint effort of European law enforcement agencies shows once again that anonymity on the Darknet can be tackled with good levels of international co-operation.
Wil van Gemert, Europol’s deputy executive director of operations, said: “This joint effort highlights that complete anonymity on the Internet and the Darknet doesn’t exist. When you engage in illegal activity online, be prepared to have police knocking on your door sooner or later. Europol will continue to assist Member States in their efforts aimed at protecting the Euro against counterfeiting, both in the real world and in the virtual world.”