Police arrest a 34-year-old Australian national believed to be selling drugs, stolen credit card data and malware on the darknet marketplace, which at the time of closure had 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors.
Germany has taken down the "world's largest" darknet marketplace, whose Australian alleged operator used it to sell drugs, stolen credit card data, and malware, prosecutors said.
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 on Tuesday.
"Investigators were able to shut down the marketplace and turn off the server on Monday," they added, calling it a months-long international law enforcement operation.
At the time of its closure, DarkMarket had nearly 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors.
"A total of at least 320,000 transactions were carried out via the marketplace, with more than 4,650 Bitcoin and 12,800 Monero – two of the most common cryptocurrencies – changing hands," prosecutors said.
At current exchange rates, that represented turnover valued at $170 million.
🚨 BREAKING NEWS 🚨— Leonardo Puglisi (@Leo_Puglisi6) January 12, 2021
Reports say the largest website for the sale of drugs, false papers, and counterfeit money, called "DarkMarket" and hosted on the Darknet, has been dismantled and its alleged manager, a 34yo Australian, has been arrested at the German-Danish border.@6NewsAU
DarkMarket operator arrested
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 believed to be the DarkMarket operator was arrested near the German-Danish border, just as more than 20 servers it used in Moldova and Ukraine were seized.
"Investigators expect to use the data saved there to launch new probes against the moderators, sellers, and buyers of the marketplace," prosecutors said.
'Coordinating role' of multiple countries
The prime suspect was brought before a judge but declined to speak.
He was placed in pre-trial detention.
The American FBI, DEA narcotics law enforcement division and IRS tax authority took part in the probe along with police from Australia, Britain, Denmark, Switzerland, Ukraine and Moldova, with Europol playing a "coordinating role".
The secret "darknet" network includes websites that can be accessed only with specific software or authorisations, ensuring anonymity for users.