Criminal police officers from Murska Sobota, north-east, have concluded an investigation resulting in the arrest of four persons suspected of drug trafficking on the dark web and seizure of 400 kilos of illicit substances in what is one of the largest drug busts in Slovenia ever.
The investigation concluded on Tuesday with house searches at three locations, two in the Maribor area and one in the Ljubljana area, and involving the four suspects aged from 28 to 43, the police said on its website on Friday.
The suspects, who are believed to have made at least EUR 3 million with the scheme, were brought before an investigating judge on Thursday and then detained. The four have no previous criminal record related to drug trafficking.
The 15-month investigation included covert measures and cooperation with the police from Germany, Austria and Estonia. Five kilos of various illicit drugs and more than 4,500 ecstasy pills were also seized abroad in the process.
The suspected criminals had a well organised network all around the world for drug trafficking that took place exclusively in marketplaces on the dark web. Payments were made exclusively in cryptocurrencies.
The police has assessed the bust as a large step forward as it was the first time for criminal police officers from the north-eastern region of Pomurje to encounter large-scale drug trafficking on the dark web.
Transactions were not made in person so there weas no physical contact between the buyer and seller, making the investigation much more difficult.
The leader of the gang sold and marketed a variety of illicit drugs in various quantities, and he had a price list. He communicated with the buyers, prepared packages and took care of the supply of ingredients for amphetamine.
The remaining members were sending packages to the buyers almost exclusively by mail. In some cases, they even delivered illicit drugs personally, mostly in Austria.
The perpetrators concealed their activity in various ways, including by carefully picking the packaging in which the shipments were sent. They for instance used containers for food supplements and made it look as if it was original packaging.
Cocaine was sold at EUR 40,000 a kilo, heroin at EUR 9,000 a kilo, methamphetamine at EUR 16,000 a kilo, amphetamine base at EUR 1,300 a kilo, while the price of an ecstasy pill ranged from one to two euros, depending on the quantity.
According to the police, the delivered drugs were of excellent quality and purity, enabling the buyers to cut them for further sale.
The investigation of the dark web profile of the gang leader showed that he had sold more than EUR 600,000 in drugs on only Empire marketplace between April 2018 and July 2020. The suspects also sold drugs on other dark web marketplaces.