The primary operator behind DarkMarket, a website that prosecutors have described as “probably the largest illegal marketplace on the Darknet”, has been arrested in Germany.
Authorities apprehended the 34-year-old Australian man during a raid in the south-western city of Koblenz over the weekend. The website was shut down and the server was turned off on Monday.
DarkMarket, which had nearly 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors, allowed anyone with a Tor browser and some cryptocurrency to buy and sell drugs, forged money, forged or stolen credit cards, anonymous SIM cards and malware. The site had processed more than 320,000 transactions, with some $170 million USD worth of Bitcoin and Monero cryptocurrencies having been exchanged.
DarkMarket’s demise involved a months-long international law enforcement operation, which saw German investigators collaborating with US, Australian, British, Danish, Swiss, Ukrainian and Moldovan authorities. The FBI, DEA narcotics and IRS from the US, along with police forces from the other countries involved all played a “coordinating role”, according to investigators.
More than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine were also seized, with police hoping to acquire further information about other participants in the marketplace. A judge ordered the Australian man to be held in custody pending possible charges, but at the time of writing he had not given any information to investigators.
This is the not the first time German authorities have successfully busted the operator of an illegal online platform or service. In 2019, police stormed a bunker hosting a number of illegal darknet platforms in the quiet German town of Traben-Trarbach, near the Luxembourgian border.
The 5,000-square-meter bunker, which was fitted with iron doors and went five floors underground, secretly housed a so-called “bulletproof hosting” service provider: that is, a service that provides IT infrastructure to protect online criminal activity from government authorities. In that raid, police arrested 13 people between the ages of 20 and 59, including the ringleader of the operation: a 59-year-old Dutch man who was living inside the bunker.