German investigators shut down big darknet marketplace

International News

BERLIN (AP) — German prosecutors said Tuesday that they have taken down what they believe was the biggest illegal marketplace on the darknet and arrested its suspected operator.

The site, known as DarkMarket, was shut down on Monday, prosecutors in the southwestern city of Koblenz said. All sorts of drugs, forged money, stolen or forged credit cards, anonymous mobile phone SIM cards and malware were among the things offered for sale there, they added.

German investigators were assisted in their months-long probe by U.S. authorities and by Australian, British, Danish, Swiss, Ukrainian and Moldovan police.

The marketplace had nearly 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors, prosecutors said. They added that it processed more than 320,000 transactions, and Bitcoin and Monero cryptocurrency to the value of more than 140 million euros ($170 million) were exchanged.

The darknet is a part of the web accessible only with specialized identity-cloaking tools.

The suspected operator, a 34-year-old Australian man, was arrested near the German-Danish border. Prosecutors said a judge has ordered him held in custody pending possible formal charges, and he hasn’t given any information to investigators.

More than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine were seized, German prosecutors said. They hope to find information on those servers about other participants in the marketplace.

Prosecutors said the move against DarkMarket originated in an investigation of a data processing center installedin a former NATO bunker in southwestern Germany that hosted sites dealing in drugs and other illegal activities. It was shut down in 2019.

That center hosted DarkMarket at one point.

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