The difficulties for Bitcoin (BTC) – and the broader cryptocurrency ecosystem – to rid itself of an outdated stigma for being fancied by dark web users and drug dealers has taken a blow today, after police in Australia arrested and charged three people with large commercial drug distribution offences.

According to a statement issued by the New South Wales (NSW) Police Force, strike force detectives executed five search warrants at properties across NSW’s southern coast and Sydney on Thursday morning.

Just some of the recovered illicit substances included 2.5kg of white powder (“believed to be cocaine, amphetamine, diazepam, and other illicit substances”), 200g of MDMA, and over 100,000 LSD tabs. Sophisticated computer equipment, a significant amount of cash, and luxury cars were among the other seized items.

Regarding cryptocurrency’s role in the extensive operation, the NSW Police’s statement went on reveal that “specialist detectives conducted a technical exploitation of electronic exhibits and an analysis of cryptocurrency wallets, and seized cryptocurrencies, which are alleged to be the proceeds of crime.”

The police went on to state that, whilst analysis is ongoing:

Initial inquiries indicate that more than $17 million (AUD) has been transacted through the wallets in recent years.”

The three arrested are a man and two women, all of whom are in their early-to-mid-twenties. The trio were transported to nearby Nowra Police Station, where they were subsequently charged and refused bail.

The three are set to appear before the Nowra Local Court on Friday. Here, police will allege that the man was operating as an online vendor on the dark web, selling illegal drugs and prescription medications for several years. As for two women, they are accused of helping the man by packaging and posting the items to buyers throughout Australia.

Speaking to reporters on Friday morning about the large-scale, cryptocurrency-related drug bust was NSW’s Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith:

This is probably the first and largest penetration of the dark web in Australia and it’s resulted in taking out a syndicate who have dealt around $17 million of drugs across the nation.”

The successful drug bust was the result of a drawn-out investigative process which saw detectives from the State Crime Command’s Criminal Groups Squad work alongside investigators from South Coast Police District and the Cybercrime Squad.

In April last year, Strike Force Royden was established by the State Crime Command’s Criminal Groups Squad to investigate criminal networks distributing illicit drugs.