Illegal Online Marketplace Thwarted in German-Led Operation

A multinational operation led by German authorities dismantled on Monday the world’s largest darknet e-commerce site, “DarkMarket,” where vendors traded all kinds of drugs and sold counterfeit money, stolen or counterfeit credit card details, anonymous SIM cards and malware, Europol announced.

The site was previously hosted in an old NATO bunker that was being used to host darknet platforms in a town in west Germany. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)The site was previously hosted in an old NATO bunker that was being used to host darknet platforms in a town in west Germany. (Source: Europol)After months of investigation, police arrested a 34-year-old Australian man accused of running the site near the German-Danish border. They shut down the marketplace and seized more than 20 servers located in Moldova and Ukraine over the weekend.  

“From the data stored there, the investigators in turn expect new investigative approaches against the moderators, sellers and buyers of the marketplace,” the General Public Prosecutor’s Office in Koblenz said in a statement.

The illegal online market hosted an estimated 500,000 users, 2,400 vendors and 320,000 illicit transactions amounting to over €140 million (over US $170 million) largely traded in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Monero.

Europol coordinated the operation that involved investigators in Australia, Britain, Denmark, Moldova, Switzerland, Ukraine and the U.S. 

The DarkMarket investigation came out of a 2019 bust of a data processing center in an old NATO bunker that was being used to host darknet platforms in a town in west Germany. 

DarkMarket was previously hosted by the raided processing center, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The Australian citizen in custody has not given any information about the case, according to prosecutors.