International operation targets users of Darknet marketplace

ACT Policing, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Federal Police, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, New South Wales Police Force, Northern Territory Police, Queensland Police Service, South Australia Police, Tasmania Police, Victoria Police, Western Australia Police

People using Darknet sites to source and deal in illicit drugs and other illegal items have been targeted by multiple law enforcement agencies in a global week of action.

International partners include agencies from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, Finland and the Netherlands.

The ‘Darknet Period of Action’ was initiated to develop a more unified global law enforcement response to the growing use of Darknet sites to buy and sell illicit goods and services.  

The ‘Darknet Period of Action’ in Australia last week involved the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Border Force (ABF) and state and territory police services.

The operation involved activity across every state and territory in Australia with a total of 11 search warrants executed resulting in four arrests and six summons issued.  Illicit substances discovered during search warrant activity included MDMA, steroids, cannabis, opium, cocaine and methylamphetamine. Operational activity to target Darknet activity will continue over the coming weeks.

While illegal drugs continue to be the most common item purchased and sold on the Darknet, law enforcement agencies around the world are also seeing a wide range of illicit materials such as weapons, fake identities and prescription drugs, as well as illegal services such as money laundering being offered for sale.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Ian McCartney, National Manager Organised Crime and Cyber, said the belief that the Darknet was an anonymous part of the internet was not correct.

“While it is not an offence to access such sites, the purchase and importation of illicit goods and services is.” 

“Last week’s actions demonstrate that law enforcement agencies across the globe are working collaboratively to identify and apprehend those individuals using illicit Darknet sites.”

To combat the movement of illicit materials into Australia, Australian Border Force officers examined approximately 57.5 million mail articles last financial year.

ABF Assistant Commissioner Strategic Border Command, Clive Murray, said the operation was another example of the real-world consequences of buying illicit items online.

“The ABF and our partner agencies are well aware of Darknet websites and their use as a virtual trading venue for illicit goods,” said Assistant Commissioner Murray.

“At some point, all goods sourced internationally must cross the border and the ABF has the capability to target and detect these goods – no matter what it is.”

ACIC Executive Director Intelligence, Col Blanch, said that a range of Australian agencies monitor illicit e-commerce platforms, working closely with international partner agencies.

“If you are thinking of engaging in illegal activity through these websites, there is no guarantee you will remain anonymous, and you will be prosecuted,” Mr Blanch said.

Note – Footage of ABF officers inspecting mail items at international mail centres can be found at: