February 12, 2014, 12:16 PM — Five men were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly trafficking drugs and weapons via hidden online marketplaces, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service said Wednesday.
Three men were arrested on Tuesday in the Netherlands on suspicion of setting up and managing the hidden online market place Utopia, a Silk Road clone that the Dutch police seized on Tuesday, Public Prosecution Service spokesman Wim de Bruin said.
The suspects allegedly set up Utopia after another hidden marketplace, Black Market Reloaded, was taken offline at the end of last year when it experienced a large influx of visitors after the U.S. government seized the site of its biggest competitor, Silk Road, in October, the Public Prosecution Service said in a news release. The suspects allegedly had used Black Market Reloaded for dealing in drugs and weapons, it added.
During a search of the suspect's homes the police seized computers, external hard drives and USB sticks as well as about 900 bitcoins worth about €400,000 to €600,000 (US$543,000 to $814,000), it said.
The hidden websites were only accessible through the Tor anonymity network, it said.
Utopia's servers were confiscated on Tuesday in Bochum, Germany, and Düsseldorf, the prosecution said. After seizing the servers the police put a warning notice online that reads: "This hidden service has been seized by the Dutch National Police."
Citing the ongoing investigation, De Bruin declined to say how the police managed to locate Utopia's servers.
However, the Dutch police has infiltrated hidden Tor-sites before. In 2011, for example, they managed to seize four hidden sites used to exchange child pornography by obtaining the administrator rights to those sites, according to the prosecution.
The Dutch authorities worked closely with the German Bundeskriminalamt, the Federal Criminal Police Office, which on Tuesday arrested a 21-year-old man on suspicion of dealing in drugs, weapons, munitions as well as stolen credit and debit cards via the marketplaces, De Bruin said. The Dutch have asked the Germans to extradite the suspect to the Netherlands.
A fifth suspect, a Dutchman who was already detained in October for transporting drugs including cocaine and amphetamine to Germany, was arrested again in his cell on Tuesday this time for involvement in illegal trade on the Internet as well as an attempt at inciting a murder, the prosecution said.
The Dutch police used undercover agents to make contact with the suspects and they were able to buy narcotics and firearms, including ecstasy and cocaine, the prosecution said.