British cops have nabbed four men in connection with the shutdown of the Silk Road internet drug shop. They said they expect to arrest more in the coming weeks as they tighten the net on the dark web's illicit marketplaces.
Police from Blighty's newly launched National Crime Agency said they had worked with US law enforcement to identify “significant users”. They said they had cuffed four people – a man in his 50s from Devon and three other men in their twenties who were based in Manchester – just a few hours after the collapse of the Silk Road.
Keith Bristow, the NCA’s director general, warned potential crims that the dark web was no protection for drug dealers as the NCA promised to tackle the "threat" posed by online currencies.
He said: “It is impossible for criminals to completely erase their digital footprint. No matter how technology-savvy the offender, they will always make mistakes and this brings law enforcement closer to them.”
“These so-called hidden or anonymous online environments are a key priority for the National Crime Agency,” continued Bristow. “These latest arrests are just the start; there are many more to come.”
Police forces around the world are also targeting people they suspect of dealing drugs on the Silk Road. In Seattle, the Feds placed tracking devices on suspects' cars and claim to have watched a dealer and his female accomplice drop off drugs packages at post offices around the city.
FBI agents also attempted to seize 600,000 Bitcoins (£45.9m; $73.8m) from alleged Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht, who was arrested last week in San Francisco, although reports suggest the g-men haven't been able to get their hands on the private key for Ulbricht's Bitcoin wallet.
Ulbricht has denied all charges against him.
Interestingly, an FBI spokesperson told Forbes the Feds have no idea what to do with the currency once they get their mitts on it. “This is kind of new to us. We will probably just liquidate them,” a spokeswoman told Forbes.
Any further operations are likely to rely on cross-border cooperation between British and American law enforcement agencies.
Andy Archibald, head of the NCA's national cyber crime unit, added: “This is only the start of a wider campaign for the NCA to tackle the ‘dark’ or ‘deep’ web and the criminals exploiting it.
“These criminal areas of the internet aren’t just selling drugs; it’s where fraud takes place, where the trafficking of people and goods is discussed, where child abuse images are exchanged and firearms are traded. Stopping this element of serious and organised crime will go a long way to protecting the public.” ®