According to prosecutors, police in Germany have taken down the “world’s largest” darknet marketplace, whose suspected Australian operator used it to ease the sale of drugs, pilfered credit card data and malware.
When it was divulged, DarkMarket had closely 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors globally, as the Covid-19 pandemic leads much of the street trade in narcotics to go online.
Police in the northern city of Oldenburg “were able to arrest the alleged operator of the suspected world’s largest illegal marketplace on the darknet, the DarkMarket, at the weekend,” prosecutors said in a statement.
“Investigators were able to shut down the marketplace and turn off the server on Monday,” they added, calling it the culmination of a months-long international law enforcement operation.
A staggering320,000 transactions were conducted via the marketplace, with more than 4,650 bitcoin and 12,800 monero.
The marketplace offered for sale “all kinds of drugs” as well as “counterfeit money, stolen and fake credit card data, anonymous SIM cards, malware and much more”.
A 34-year-old Australian national thought to be the DarkMarket operator was detained near the German-Danish border, just as more than 20 servers it used in Moldova and Ukraine were held.
“Investigators expect to use the data saved there to launch new probes against the moderators, sellers and buyers of the marketplace,” prosecutors said.
Although the main suspect was brought before a judge, he declined to speak and was placed in pre-trial detention.
The American FBI, DEA narcotics law enforcement division and IRS tax authority participated in the investigation along with police from Australia, Britain, Denmark, Switzerland, Ukraine and Moldova.