German law enforcement has shut down an internet market where users bought and sold narcotics, stolen data and hacking tools, authorities said Tuesday.
The forum, known as DarkMarket, was the internet’s largest bazaar for illicit goods, the European police agency Europol said, with more than 2,400 vendors and 320,000 transactions completed. Police said they apprehended a single suspect, a 34-year-old Australian man accused of operating the site, near the German-Danish border.
The law enforcement action originated in a larger investigation into the internet hosting provider known as CyberBunker, a notorious service that scammers for a generation have used to operate with little fear of detection.
The CyberBunker hosting service was based in former North Atlantic Treaty Organization bunkers in Holland and then Germany, helping controversial sites avoid police legal enforcement from military-style basements. CyberBunker has housed servers for the Pirate Bay, WikiLeaks and a range of dark net markets as a “bulletproof hosting” service, only to become the subject of fixation for police and in the global media.
“The stored data will give investigators new leaders to further investigate moderators, sellers and buyers,” Europol said in a statement Tuesday.
German police raided the CyberBunker’s headquarters in September 2019 in Traben-Trarbach, a small town close to the Luxembourg border. Eight defendants — four Dutchmen, three Germans and one Bulgarian — stood trial beginning in October for allegedly aiding and abetting 249,000 transactions involving drugs, money laundering, stolen information and pornographic images of children.
Value of the bitcoin and monero virtual currencies traded on DarkMarket totaled 140 million euros ($170 million euros). Officers said they also seized more than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine that DarkMarket relied on to function.
In 2019, Europol announced the closure of the Wall Street Market, which featured 11.5 million customer accounts and 5,400 registered sellers.
The operation announced Tuesday was distinct from the closure of another site, also called DarkMarket, in 2009.