Two held over 'darknet' drugs ring
Irish police have arrested two men after smashing a suspected global drug-dealing operation using a hidden corner of the internet known as the darknet.
An international investigation identified an Irish suspect as being behind an online distribution network which had customer addresses across the world.
Garda said the operation was based at a secured premises on the South Circular Road in Dublin's south inner city.
They are the first arrests and seizures relating to drug dealing on the hidden internet in Ireland.
After weeks of surveillance, as part of a global effort involving Europol and the FBI, officers moved in on the site yesterday afternoon.
Ecstasy tablets, LSD and other illegal drugs valued at around 180,000 euro were seized.
Two men in their 30s were arrested at the scene. They are being held at nearby Kevin Street and Kilmainham Garda stations in the Irish capital under section two of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act.
"A critical part of this operation was preservation of data on encrypted computers which related to the worldwide distribution of controlled drugs from this premises in Dublin," said a Garda spokesman.
"With the invaluable assistance of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and the Computer Crime Investigation Unit, a number of computers were safely retrieved with accessible information immediately at the time of entry on this search.
"At this time analysis is continuing with regard to storage of electro currency Bitcoin, and CAB have already seized certain currency assets."
Investigators launched a follow-up search in Harold's Cross, a suburban neighbourhood also in south Dublin, where they seized more drugs as well as records of offshore bank accounts in Switzerland, Belize, Poland and a number of other countries.
"The financial investigation in relation to this investigation is continuing with new information still coming to light at this time," the Garda spokesman added.
The arrests come during an international police effort to disrupt activity on the darknet and remove certain websites and forums.
The operation, codenamed Onymous, is to end tomorrow.
The Garda has described the suspected online drugs trader in Dublin as "a significant vendor" with address lists for customers all over the world.
Like legitimate businesses, illegal traders including drug dealers are increasingly moving online.
Many use the darknet, an encrypted area of the internet which allows people to view sites using the Tor browser.
Originally built by the US Navy, it is an open-source project which allows people to browse the net without giving away their location.