A US Customs officer works with a dog to check parcels for fentanyl at John F. Kennedy Airport's US Postal Service facility in New York. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty.
The US government has targeted a European-based network of drug websites accused of supplying fentanyl to fuel its deadly opioid crisis. US Treasury officials said on Wednesday that Martinus De Koning and Alex Peijnenburg from the Netherlands generated millions of dollars in crypto currency from illicit drug sales through their websites.
The pair are said to have initially sold fentanyl analogues, substances with a similar molecular structure to fentanyl such as acrylfentanyl, furanylfentanyl, and isobutryfentanyl to US consumers via the dark web. In 2017, they were arrested by Dutch police for participating in the sale and distribution of synthetic stimulants, cannabinoids, and opioids through their Dutch company, Research Group Nederland, which changed its name to Green District B.V. Despite their arrests they continued trafficking drugs. Between 2018 and 2021 De Koning and Peijnenburg, both in their mid 30s, “generated millions of dollars” selling drugs via a website which has since been shut down called therealrc.com, according to those running the joint operation by the US Treasury, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Homeland Security and British and Dutch police. Visitors reached the site via adverts on social media and bought drugs using bank transfers or virtual currency. A company, Best Sport Company, which was used to launder the drug trafficking proceeds was sanctioned alongside several other companies linked to the men.Also targeted by the US government was Matthew Grimm from the UK. Grimm, aged in his late 40s and originally from Bristol, owned Smokeyschemsite.com, an online marketplace alleged to have sold illegal drugs to US customers using virtual currency. Two companies linked to Grimm, Natural Gifts B.V. and UK-based mail order company Erjm Limited have also been sanctioned.
The US government is also believed to be behind the targeting on Tuesday by Dutch police of a laboratory, Lizard Labs, near the city of Maastricht, which makes LSD analogues currently legal in some countries, including Germany. The raid was confirmed to VICE World News by insiders, who filmed police entering the warehouse. Equipment was seized and the lab’s website was shut down by the US government. Last year there were 71,000 deaths from synthetic opioids – mainly fentanyl – in the US, accounting for nearly three quarters of 108,000 officially recorded drug overdose deaths. “The Treasury Department will continue to deploy its counternarcotics authorities to disrupt those involved in the fentanyl global supply chain,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “Treasury is identifying over 50 virtual wallet addresses associated with this network’s drug trafficking activities as we take further action to counter the abuse of virtual currency. I would like to thank our Dutch and UK partners and U.S. law enforcement counterparts for their partnership and for enabling today’s action.”