German authorities have shut down the world’s largest darknet marketplace in a joint operation supported by Europol, a law enforcement agency of the European Union. The vendors of the illegal marketplace were involved in nearly €140 million worth of transactions including the transfer of 4,650 Bitcoin and 12,800 Monero (XMR).
According to the official announcement by Europol, the illegal marketplace involved more than 500,000 users including 2,400 vendors. The sellers used Bitcoin and other privacy coins to transfer funds obtained by the trading of drugs. The authorities mentioned that an Australian citizen has been arrested near the German-Danish border as further investigations are underway.
“The investigation, which was led by the cybercrime unit of the Koblenz Public Prosecutor’s Office, allowed officers to locate and close the marketplace, switch off the servers and seize the criminal infrastructure, more than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine supported by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). The stored data will give investigators new leads to further investigate moderators, sellers and buyers,” Europol said in the official announcement.
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Use of Bitcoin and Privacy Coins
The criminals have accelerated the use of the world’s largest cryptocurrency in illegal activities. US authorities seized more than 69,000 Bitcoin related to the Silk Road Darknet in November 2020. A research report by Elliptic in December indicated that criminals increased the use of privacy wallets and privacy coins to hide illegal funds. The recent shut down by the German authorities shows that it is not that easy for criminals to use crypto assets in illegal transactions.
“An IP leak potentially led German law enforcement to DarkMarket. Darknet admins that use the Eckmar marketplace script are often not experts at securing servers. Law Enforcement knowing figures at that detail on the same day of the arrest indicates they may have analyzed the servers long before the arrest, possibly hacked the market in some way, or had an undercover staff member able to see counts in DarkMarket’s support interface,” Dark.fail, a darknet journalist mentioned in a tweet.