Six held over Silk Road 2 website
Six Britons have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in running online drug market place Silk Road 2.0, and one other illegal website, as part of a joint European and US operation.
A 20-year-old man from Liverpool, a 19-year-old man from New Waltham, Lincolnshire, a 30-year-old man from Cleethorpes, a 29-year-old man from Aberdovey, Wales, a 58-year-old man from Aberdovey, Wales and a 58-year-old woman from Aberdovey, Wales were all interviewed and bailed, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.
Silk Road 2.0, which allowed anonymous trade in illegal products such as class A drugs, firearms and false documents, was shut down yesterday by the FBI and Europol and its alleged 26-year-old operator was arrested.
The arrests come as Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, warned t he internet and other communications platforms cannot become a safe haven for criminality.
The NCA, working with police forces across the UK, arrested six people yesterday who included suspected administrators for Silk Road 2.0 and another drug marketplace, as well as significant vendors of illegal drugs through the dark web.
A large amount of computer equipment was seized at all the addresses searched and will now be forensically examined, the NCA said.
Simultaneously, the European Cybercrime Centre - acting on intelligence developed by US counterparts - took out technical infrastructure key to the hosting of illegal marketplaces on the dark web.
In total, more than 400 dark web sites were taken down, the NCA said.
The original Silk Road online market place was taken down by the FBI and international partners in September 2013.
The alleged founder of the site, 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, is currently standing trial in the United States.
Silk Road 2.0 began trading in November 2013 and is believed to be run by former administrators of the original Silk Road.
Roy McComb, NCA deputy director, said: " Over the months since the original Silk Road was taken down, we have been working with partners in the US and Europe to locate technical infrastructure key to the dark web and to investigate individuals suspected of significant involvement in illegal online market places.
"Those arrested by the NCA in this phase of the operation are suspected of setting up Silk Road 2.0, or of being significant vendors of illegal drugs.
"The operation is ongoing and more arrests can be expected as we continue to investigate those involved in setting up and profiting from these illegal market places.
"Criminals like to think that the dark web provides a safe, anonymous haven but in reality this is just like any other organised crime network.
"It may take time and effort to investigate and build a criminal case, but we are determined to identify and prosecute people caught dealing drugs and committing serious crime using the dark web."
In a separate release, Europol said 17 arrests had been made across 16 countries, including the UK detentions.
In addition to the Silk Road site, it said several other marketplaces were seized, netting 1 million US dollars (£630,000) in digital currency and 225,000 US dollars (£142,000) worth of cash and drugs.
Blake Benthall, 26, appeared in federal court in San Francisco, California, yesterday charged with starting up Silk Road 2.0 and enabling more than 100,000 people to buy and sell illegal drugs on the website since December.
Wearing a hooded sweatshirt with "Internet Better" on the back, Benthall was returned to custody after the hearing.
Yesterday in New York City, Met Police chief Sir Bernard met law enforcement experts at the headquarters of the city's police department.
Signalling a determination to deal with the threats posed by the so-called "dark web", or "deep" internet, he said: "We cannot allow parts of the internet - or any communications platform - to become dark and ungoverned space where images of child abuse are exchanged, murders are planned, and terrorist plots are progressed."