Four Australians were charged and arrested on the basis of investigation focused on the trade of illegal firearms via the ‘dark web’. A US-based seller was using the “dark web”, an online alias, to do the transactions. The seller enjoys a worldwide client base, including Australian-based buyers.
The arrest was the result of a six-month joint operation between the United States Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Australian Federal Police (AFP), and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS).
The HSI initiated investigation on the basis of information passed on ACBPS. This led to the identification of a 33-year-old man in Montana for the operation of the online alias account. As a follow up HSI agents commenced a covert operation using the online alias account. On the basis of this operation conducted worldwide, they identified suspected Australian-based users. These people were attempting to illegally purchase firearms from illegal online sites.
On the basis of information received, controlled delivery of six parcels to addresses in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT were done. This resulted in the execution of 15 search warrants. As a result, four illegal firearms, ammunition, two clandestine laboratories, precursor chemicals, methamphetamines, pseudoephedrine, steroids, computer equipment and mobile telephones were seized. Since these transactions are illegal and online, involvement of any Sydney custom broker is ruled out.
The operation which was conducted on a global level resulted in 17 arrests from United Kingdom, Europe and North America. These arrests resulted in the further seizures of firearms, ballistic armor, illicit drugs and USD$80,000 in bitcoins.
Kevin Kelly, HSI acting special agent in charge of HSI Newark said HSI will utilize its manpower and resources to secure land borders as well as virtual borders from illegal activities of sale and purchase of firearms, drugs, and other illicit items. He also hoped the joint international law enforcement operation will serve as a warning to those who make profit by using underground websites.