Germany busts ‘world’s largest’ darknet site trading in drugs, forgeries, World News

German investigators shut down what they believe was the world’s largest darknet marketplace and arrested its suspected operator, the chief prosecutor in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate said Tuesday.

“At the time of its closure, DarkMarket was easily the world’s largest darknet marketplace, with almost 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors,” Juergen Brauer said in a press release.

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

“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. 

“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 140 million euros ($170 million).

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. 

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.

(With inputs from agencies)