A coalition of European police agencies have arrested an Australian citizen in Germany who they allege was behind the ‘world’s largest illegal dark web marketplace’.
Early on Wednesday morning (Australian time), the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) announced that they had taken down DarkMarket in a joint operation involving law enforcement from Germany, Denmark, Moldova, Ukraine, the UK, US and Australia.
Over the weekend, the Central Criminal Investigation Department in the German city of Oldenburg arrested a 34-year-old Australian man, as well as locating and switching off the marketplace’s servers in Moldova and Ukraine.
The Australian man, they claim, was the operator of DarkMarket. And in their announcement, Europol outlined some eye-popping numbers for the size of the market place.
They claim that nearly 500,000 users conducted more than 320,000 transactions of more than 4650 bitcoin and 12,800 monero.
“At the current rate, this corresponds to a sum of more than €140 million [AU$220 million]. The vendors on the marketplace mainly traded all kinds of drugs and sold counterfeit money, stolen or counterfeit credit card details, anonymous SIM cards and malware,” the statement claims.
DarkMarket was only viewable on the so-called ‘dark web’, meaning that users needed to use the TOR encrypted web browser to access it. It’s one of the many options that popped up in the wake of the closure of the Silk Road in 2013.
It’s been reported that the popularity of dark web drug marketplaces boomed, with a supposed three-fold increase in trade immediately afterwards.
Australian drug dealers say they prefer selling in online anonymous marketplaces due to the financial benefits and reduced risk of arrest or violence.
Europol says that the seizure of the equipment will give them “new leads” to continue to investigate DarkMarket’s moderators, sellers and buyers. So far, the arrested Australian man has not co-operated with police.