An illegal Italian dark net website has been shut down and wallets containing €1 million worth of bitcoin have been seized in “Operation Babylon.”
Differing reports peg the number of bitcoin wallets seized at either 11,000 or 14,000, the latter being roughly the number of subscribed users in the network.
The site facilitated the trade of child pornography, weapons, passport and identity documents, credit card information, hacking services and drugs. Around 210 drug dealers used the site. Evidence of some 170,000 transaction messages was discovered.
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Undercover police worked on infiltrating the tough-to-crack network for roughly two years. The investigation started when the Italian postal and communications police discovered that the dark net site had been facilitating the sale of child pornography.
The network was shut down when its head administrator’s house was raided. The administrator took a fee from each transaction processed, a similar business model followed by several illegal dark net sites including the original Silk Road.
Michele Prestipino, a public prosecutor who coordinated the investigation, told a press conference in Rome, “The virtual world of the Dark Web has its own hierarchies and severe rules on access and affiliation. Getting into such a closed community was extremely difficult.”
Investigators from Italy’s National Centre for the Fight against Child Pornography Online (CNCPO) coordinated with the Italian State Police, FBI and Europol on the investigation.