Operation Golalde launched by the Civil Guard in 2015 has reported success in its effort to dismantle weapon trade and organized crimes on the dark web. Over 3000 long and shot weapons secured for sale on dark web marketplaces have been seized with hundreds of suspects arrested, some of whom have been convicted.
Dark Web Weapon
The operation was launched by the Civil Guard Information Services after an appearance of automatic pistols on the internet for 2,100 euros, which were traced to a Gijón citizen, who was a well-known, notorious heroin consumer and dark web drug trafficker, Captain Carrillo Fernando, the Chief Head of Information of Asturias, explained.
The Civil Guard, a task force responsible for the control of firearms in Spain, in corroboration with the Armed Institute, launched the Comprehensive Plan for the Control of Firearms (PICAF) in 2015. The operation began on the right footing after 322 fully functional and active dark web weapons were seized with four arrests in an undercover investigation. Since the launch, a total of 3050 unsilenced weapons have been recovered and 295 suspects have been arrested.
Spain is well known globally for its restrictive legislation against illegal weapon possession, and the presence or accesses of the illicit arms have remained under control for long now. However, the knowledge of the dark web and the use of virtual currencies seem to be distorting this control. Weapons are now easily accessible on the anonymous dark web marketplaces.
The connection of drug trafficking, arms dealings, and terrorist cells has been established by the task force and forms a significant challenge. It has been found that most criminal communication and activities are conducted on the dark web while payments are made in cryptocurrencies, both of which are significantly anonymous and pose a big challenge to law enforcement agencies in their investigations.
“It is surprising to see that the seized firearms are modern and from different parts of the world. However, most of them are Israel and Soviet-made, and we suspect they are stolen as some of them are military grade,” says Captain Carrillo. “Small arms, automatic rifles, AK-47 assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns which can fire over 600 bullets a minute are some of the arms categories seized. They are sold on dark web online markets with prices ranging from 1500 to 2100 euros.”
The investigation is currently looking into the possibility of the four detainees in Madrid Torrelavega and Asturias working for the same criminal organization. They have been charged with illegal firearm trafficking and deposition of weapons of war and ammunition.
The suspect in Gijón will face an extra charge of using a revoked gun handling license after he was involved in domestic violence crime. He had been licensed to work in a gun workshop for weapon storage, rehabilitation, and collection. He was arrested with over 200 weapons at his home, 183 of which were revolvers and pistols.
The prisoner at Torrelavega operated an illegal gun workshop while the one in Madrid bought and sold weapons on the dark web without proper documentation and to people without a license. Three of the four suspects have been convicted.
The gun criminals are said to have communicated through encrypted platforms and encrypted messages for anonymity. The investigating agents started tracing the illegal weapons by analyzing the type, origin, and owner of firearms used in criminal activities. Some of the Spanish-made weapons (1914) seized recently had been used in several crimes including the March attack of the French gendarmerie members in Trèbes.
The success of the Golalde operation has been reported as “being able to manage, control and reduce dangerous and illegal weapons from circulation,” where they are prone to misuse by drug traffickers and jihadists, especially along the Spanish coastal line.